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Alcohol and Pre Employment Drug Screen: The Need to Know

10 April, 2024

An employer interviewing a job applicant

Pre-employment alcohol and drug screening is a procedure companies use to check if job applicants have alcohol or drugs in their system. It helps employers ensure workplace safety and productivity. Accordingly, there are several types of screenings. It includes urine tests, oral fluid tests, blood tests, hair tests, and alcohol breath testing. Furthermore, knowing what happens after a non-negative result is crucial. It may involve conducting confirmatory testing and may affect the employment decision.

The influence of alcohol and drugs in the workplace can have serious consequences. It can lead to safety risks, decreased productivity, and legal liabilities. Hence, companies often conduct workplace alcohol and drug testing. Aside from random testing, blanket testing, and reasonable suspicion testing, employers usually require pre-employment testing. It is to ensure a safe and productive work environment. This article will present pre-employment drug and alcohol screening, its types, and what happens after a non-negative result.

What is Pre-Employment Alcohol and Drug Screening?

Pre-employment alcohol and drug screening occurs during the hiring process. It is a procedure where companies test job applicants for substance use before hiring them. They may screen for illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, it ensures that new hires do not bring illicit substance abuse problems into the workplace. Thus, it contributes to a safer, more efficient work environment.

Furthermore, industries where safety is a top priority often require these screenings. It may include the building industry, transportation, healthcare, civil aviation, and mining. Accordingly, the testing process begins with collecting biological samples. It may include urine, blood, hair, breath, and saliva samples. The choice depends on specific needs, particularly the detection window.

Applicants first undergo a preliminary or initial screening. In the screening phase, the testing device often utilises immunoassay technology. If the results indicate the presence of drugs or alcohol, it moves to the next stage for further examination. It depends on the agreement of the employer and the potential employee. The stage may involve laboratory testing to confirm the results.

Importance of Pre-Employment Screening

  • Ensures a safe workplace: Screening helps identify candidates who might pose a safety risk to themselves or others.
  • Improves productivity: Through screenings, companies aim to assemble teams that can contribute positively to productivity and efficiency. It ensures smoother operations.
  • Reduces healthcare costs: Organisations can avoid increased health insurance premiums and unnecessary medical costs due to alcohol and drug-related workplace accidents.
  • Maintains company reputation: Hiring individuals with known substance abuse issues can jeopardise the reputation of a company. The screening ensures that new hires uphold the values of the business.
  • Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements: Screening helps eliminate legal penalties and maintains operational licences.

A trained collector gathering saliva samples from a female candidate

Types of Pre-Employment Alcohol and Drug Screening

Employers use different types of pre-employment alcohol and drug screening. The most common method is urine testing. It is quick, efficient, and can detect a wide range of substances in urine samples. Another popular type is saliva testing. It is non-invasive and can detect recent substance use. They are easy to administer and provide quick results. Thus, it is suitable for on-site screening.

Moreover, blood drug and alcohol tests provide a more detailed analysis. It detects the presence and exact amount of substances in the system of a person. However, they are less common as it is invasive and costly. Furthermore, a hair follicle test is a method that can trace substance use far back, up to 90 days. It analyses a small hair sample, providing a long-term view of substance use history.

In addition, specifically designed to measure alcohol levels, breathalyser or breath alcohol testing assesses the amount of alcohol in the breath. They are easy to conduct and offer immediate results. Overall, each type of screening has advantages and is selected depending on the circumstances.

Detectable Substances

The screening methods can detect a wide range of substances. Foremost, the test can identify the presence of illegal drugs. It may include cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamine. Employers focus on these drugs due to their potential to impair cognitive and physical abilities.

Also, it screens for prescription medications. It may include opiates, opioids, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. It is not to invade privacy but to understand potential side effects that might affect job performance. The screened substances, if abused, can impair motor skills and decision-making. Additionally, the screening detects ethanol. It is an active ingredient in alcoholic beverages.

A failed drug test result, while stethoscope, phone, eyeglass, and coffee in the background

What Happens After a Non-Negative Pre-Employment Alcohol and Drug Screening Result?

When a pre-employment alcohol and drug screening produces a non-negative result, it follows a meticulous process. Initially, the employer informs the applicant about the outcome and explains the next steps. These steps often include a confirmatory test or review. It is to validate the result or determine if a legitimate medical explanation exists.

Accordingly, depending on availability, the applicant can speak with a Medical Review Officer (MRO). If the applicant provides satisfactory evidence of a legitimate medical reason, the MRO may report the result to the employer as negative. However, if the applicant cannot provide an adequate explanation, the MRO declares the results as positive. This positive result involves a series of actions.

Upon receiving a confirmed positive result, the employer decides on the appropriate action. It depends on policies and the nature of the job. Actions can include rescinding a job offer or requiring the applicant to complete a substance abuse program before reconsidering employment. Nevertheless, throughout the process, employers maintain confidentiality and professionalism.

Can a Potential Employee Refuse a Test?

It is important to note that in most cases, a potential employee cannot refuse a drug and alcohol test if it is a requirement for the job. Many companies have a policy that requires all potential employees to undergo drug and alcohol testing as part of the pre-employment screening process. Refusing to take the test could result in the candidate being disqualified from consideration for the position.

Additionally, refusing the test could raise concerns about the ability of the candidate to adhere to company policies. Potential employees need to comply with these requirements to secure and sustain employment opportunities.

Conclusion

In summary, pre-employment alcohol and drug screening is an essential practice for businesses. It is a process where organisations test potential employees for substance use before hiring them. Accordingly, the screening holds importance. It ensures workplace safety and productivity, reduces healthcare costs, maintains the reputation of the company, and complies with relevant requirements. Furthermore, there are various types of screenings. It may include urine, blood, saliva, hair, and breath alcohol screening.

The screening methods can detect a wide range of substances. It can identify cannabis, heroin, opioids, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. Nevertheless, knowing what happens after a non-negative result is crucial. It may involve reviewing or confirming the results. A confirmed positive result can lead to rescinding a job offer or completing a substance abuse program. Moreover, it is vital to recognise that a potential employee cannot refuse a test without consequences.

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