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International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers

Drug-Free Workplace Promising Practice

The following Drug-Free Workplace Alliance member profile illustrates a promising practice for workplace substance abuse programs and is provided for strictly informational purposes.

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers (otherwise known as Ironworkers International or the Ironworkers) is a labor union representing more than 100,000 journeymen and apprentices in the United States and Canada.

A founding member of the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, Ironworkers International has been committed to improving worker health and safety by encouraging alcohol- and drug-free workplaces throughout its industry. The union's formal program is built around a comprehensive drug testing policy designed to provide a pre-qualified, drug-free workforce to contractors.

"Iron work is the fourth most dangerous job in the world and the number one most dangerous job in the construction industry," said Frank Migliaccio, Executive Director of Safety and Health at Ironworkers International. "We don't need to make it any more dangerous by adding drug and alcohol use into the mix."

The Ironworkers' Program

In 2004, the Ironworkers partnered with the Ironworkers Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) to develop the union's drug-free workplace program. IMPACT is a joint labor-management, non-profit trust designed to expand job opportunities for union ironworkers and their signatory contractors through progressive and innovative labor management cooperative programs. Based on its mission and model, IMPACT emerged as a fitting administrator of a formal drug-free workplace program. After a year of development and program testing, the Ironworkers launched the National Substance Abuse Program in January of 2005.

Modeled after a successful program used by the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, IMPACT's National Substance Abuse Program creates a pool of pre-tested ironworkers who are pre-qualified to work on job sites that have substance abuse testing requirements. The program also provides an online database that contractors wishing to hire ironworkers can access to verify the drug testing status of potential new hires.

The IMPACT program involves drug testing in each of the following circumstances:

  • Pre-employment - Applicants are tested as a condition of employment and are not hired if they fail to produce a negative test.
  • Annually - Annual testing of all participants is scheduled in advance and uniformly administered.
  • Random - Ironworkers are tested with no prior announcement and are selected randomly from participants in a given selection pool.
  • For cause - Testing is conducted when supervisors document observable signs and symptoms that lead them to believe that an individual may pose a danger to himself or herself, other employees or the public.
  • Post accident - Participants may be tested if they directly or indirectly cause an accident or injury to persons or property.

IMPACT contracts with independent drug testing service providers that coordinate all program testing. All workers are tested a minimum of once a year, and usually more often. Tests are performed on samples of urine to detect evidence of use of any one of ten drugs including amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, cannibanoids (THC), opiates, phencyclidine, benzodiazepines, methadone, propoxyphene, oxycodon and alcohol. Samples are initially screened by one method (enzyme immunoassay) and then confirmed by another (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) using pre-established cut-off levels consistent with HHS standards. Further, a Medical Review Officer (MRO) interview is conducted for each laboratory positive, and participants have the option to request a re-analysis of their original specimen within 72 hours of a positive result.

Workers whose drug-test results come back negative are determined to be "clean." This pre-qualifies them for work and grants them an identification card certifying that they are drug free. Contractors can verify this information by checking a worker's status in the online database. If a participant does not report or refuses the test, he or she is no longer eligible to participate in the program (and thus will not be eligible to work on jobs requiring such tests).

If workers test positive for drug use, they are deemed "Not Fit for Duty" and prescribed a regimen of rehabilitation and frequent retesting. In order to return to work, these individuals must be evaluated by a substance abuse professional, successfully complete a treatment program, submit a negative Return-to-Duty test and complete a work suspension. After they complete their prescribed rehabilitation program, they also will be subject to Accelerated Random Testing for one year as a condition of further employment, which means they will be tested a minimum of four times a year at unannounced times.

Program Adoption & Union Education

Ironworkers International is comprised of more than 200 local unions and affiliates, many of which have adopted and embraced the IMPACT National Substance Abuse Program. Doing so requires local unions to include the program language in their collective bargaining agreements, which can be an involved process. However, by 2008, Ironworkers International's leadership expects all local unions to have implemented the National Substance Abuse Program or a compatible drug screening program.

In addition to drug testing, education plays a critical role in the Ironworkers' drug-free workplace program. Bobby Banks, director of IMPACT's Eastern Regional Office, coordinates regular training sessions conducted for local unions that teach supervisors and union representatives about the program and how to recognize the signs of alcohol and drug use on the job.


Contractors and union ironworkers alike have expressed overwhelming support for the IMPACT National Substance Abuse Program.

"The program has brought notable benefits to local unions, members, contractors and customers," said Banks. "Labor and management are working together to maximize job site safety, eliminate duplicate testing, comply with applicable laws and regulations, and generate significant time and cost savings. More importantly, the program is helping to ensure a productive, skilled and safe workforce of union ironworkers."

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