Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy: Types of Tests and Handling the Results
31 October, 2023
Maintaining a safe and productive work environment is a top priority for any organisation. One aspect of achieving this goal is implementing an alcohol and other drugs policy. This typically covers the types of testing and when they are used. The standard methods are urine and saliva drug tests and alcohol breath tests. Employers must handle the test results with care and utmost confidentiality. Through the policy, management can safely navigate the legalities of drug and alcohol testing.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious issue affecting many workplaces. It increases the risk of accidents and leads to productivity losses. Hence, establishing safety procedures is vital towards maintaining a hazard-free workplace. Companies start by having clear regulations and preventive measures, such as drug and alcohol testing. In this article, we will explore the types of testing methods included in a policy, the handling of positive results, and legal obligations.
Types of Tests in an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy
The alcohol and other drugs policy includes the types of test methods so employees know what to expect. A standard method is a urine drug test. It collects and analyses urine samples to detect a wide variety of illicit drugs and abuse of prescribed medication. This procedure is easy to administer and provides fast results, making it cost-efficient for employers and employees.
The second method is saliva drug testing. It involves collecting oral fluid samples through a swab. This test can detect substances within the past 24 hours. Hence, it is suitable for identifying recent use. Many companies prefer this method because it is non-invasive. Additionally, the blood test provides the most accurate results. However, its use is often limited to confirmatory testing due to its high cost and intrusive nature.
Lastly, the breath test detects alcohol in the system. It uses a breathalyser device to measure Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or the level of impairment. This process is quick and non-invasive. The breathalyser can display the BAC results within seconds. Therefore, it helps companies monitor alcohol consumption easily.
Commonly Detected Substances
- Ethanol – the main component in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol metabolites, such as ethyl glucuronide (EtG), ethyl sulfate (EtS), and phosphatidylethanol (PEth), are detectable for extended periods.
- Marijuana – cannabis and metabolites like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can stay in the body longer than other drugs.
- Amphetamines – stimulant drugs that increase wakefulness, alertness, and energy. Including methamphetamines, these substances have significant potential for addiction and abuse.
- Cocaine – a powerful stimulant drug that produces euphoria followed by a crash. It can lead to increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and anxiety.
- Opiates – powerful painkillers that can be highly addictive. This includes heroin, morphine, and codeine.
Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy – What Happens After a Positive Result
It is vital for alcohol and other drugs policy to outline what happens if an employee tests positive. Primarily, employers should confirm the results by running additional tests if required. After validating the results, the next step is to inform the employee of their violation. This comes with appropriate disciplinary action, such as a warning, suspension, and termination.
The consequences of a positive test can depend on the severity of the situation. In other cases, the employer may launch an investigation to determine the root cause and suggest ways to prevent future violations. Moreover, the organisation may refer the employee to counselling or rehabilitation through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
When dealing with positive test results, it is important to maintain strict confidentiality. Lastly, employers must comply with federal and state laws when dealing with dismissal for breaches or violations. Termination should follow due process and is best handled by an experienced HR consultant or legal expert. It includes the number of warnings employees will receive before dismissal.
Factors that May Influence the Result
Several factors may influence the result of the drug and alcohol test. One factor is the sensitivity of the testing method. Each type has varying levels of accuracy, which can impact the test outcomes. Another aspect is sample contamination. This may occur due to improper collection or storage of the specimen.
Additionally, certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause false positives. Drug interactions may cause elevated levels of substances that may not be present in the body. Lastly, certain medical conditions can affect the results as well. This includes diabetes and kidney or liver problems.
Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy – Legal Obligations of Employer and Employee
The alcohol and other drugs policy adheres to the relevant legislation and standard industry practices. Employers have a duty of care obligation to maintain a safe working environment for their workers. They must ensure to manage and reduce preventable hazards that may compromise workplace safety. A comprehensive workplace policy regulates the consumption of alcohol and drugs and addresses safety issues.
Meanwhile, employees must abide by the terms stated in the policy. They must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others in the workplace. This is because unsafe work practices can affect other members of the organisation. Moreover, all employees must be aware of their obligations and have an understanding of the safety risks of alcohol and illegal drugs.
Failure to comply with these legal obligations can have serious consequences. Employers may face legal liabilities if they do not take appropriate measures to prevent substance abuse in the workplace. On the other hand, employees who fail to comply with the drug and alcohol policy may face disciplinary measures.
Can an Employee Refuse a Test?
In general, an employee can refuse a drug test, but it may come with consequences. It would largely depend on the existing laws and regulations of the company and the specific jurisdiction they are in. However, if drug and alcohol testing is part of the employment requirement, the employee must abide by such conditions.
The policies include the situation for testing, such as pre-employment, post-accident, random, and reasonable suspicion. The reasons involve maintaining workplace safety. It is also a standard requirement for rail transport, construction, and mining occupations. Therefore, refusal to cooperate with a reasonable request may lead to disciplinary actions.
Organisations implement an alcohol and other drugs policy to create a safe and healthy work environment. It outlines the acceptable standards for employees to follow to minimise and prevent the risks of illicit substances. It also includes the standard test procedures, including urine, saliva, blood, and breath tests. These methods ensure employees working in safety-critical positions are not under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Moreover, the policy states the consequences of positive test results.
It is essential to understand the legal implications of non-compliance with these policies. Employers must adhere to their duty of care obligation to identify and manage safety hazards. Meanwhile, employees should comply with the terms of the policy. Violations or refusal to cooperate with reasonable requests may lead to disciplinary or legal actions. Nevertheless, these policies are in place to protect the well-being and safety of employees rather than to punish them.