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Blood Test for Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace: What are Alternatives?

blood-test-drugs-and-alcohol

Drug and alcohol use and abuse in the workplace can be problematic for employers and employees alike. Suppose you, as an employee, have been drinking. In that case, understanding and being aware of how long alcohol can remain in your system is crucial information for avoiding dangerous interactions involving medications and impairments in your physical and mental capabilities. Drugs are even worse as they can directly affect an individual’s mental state. Those impairments can easily affect your work performance as well as risk workplace health and safety. Most companies and businesses develop and implement drug and alcohol testing policies in the workplace to deter and detect the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs abuse. These policies may include conducting a blood test for drugs and alcohol. However, employers nowadays prefer other alternatives, such as the use of  the workplace breath tester from Breathalysers Australia.

Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing 

If you consider implementing a workplace drug and alcohol policy, you should determine why you need to have that policy in place? What kind of issues are you trying to manage? Will you be conducting a blood test for drug and alcohol detection? If so, employers should then present a detailed drug and alcohol policy and procedure to their employees clearly and precisely. The importance of doing so is as follows:

Workplace safety – Substance abuse can cause an increase in workplace accidents. Industries like mining, transportation, and aviation where a drug or alcohol-impaired employee can be considered a safety hazard must have drug and alcohol policies in place. 

Employee performance – Illicit drug use and alcohol consumption can have an adverse impact on an employee’s ability to do their job correctly. Alcohol and drug use also contributes to an increase in employee lateness and absenteeism. 

Legal Liability – As an employer, you must provide your employees with a safe working environment and maintain that safety. Employees impaired by drugs or alcohol should not be allowed as they may risk causing workplace accidents. 

Drug and Alcohol Standards

Your company’s workplace drug and alcohol policy should also comply with the Australian Standards.  

  • Urine Testing – AS/NZS 4308:2008 
  • Saliva Testing – AS 4760:2006 
  • Alcohol Testing – AS 3547:1997 

Suppose an employee violates your drug or alcohol policy, either by refusing to get tested or by testing positive. In that case, you may be able to dismiss them for failing to follow a lawful and reasonable direction. Moreover, it is also worth noting that a blood test for drugs and alcohol is more invasive than urine, saliva and alcohol testing and also takes more time. Therefore, the Australian Standards nowadays, gear towards the use of more practical, quick, and less invasive testing methods (like breath tests). 

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Blood Test for Drugs and Alcohol

A blood test for drugs and alcohol is the most accurate method of detecting specific alcohol concentration levels and medications in your system. Running a blood test for drugs and alcohol will show precise levels of intoxication 24 hours after drinking. However, due to the invasive nature of blood testing that would require drawing blood from a needle in the arm, it requires highly certified personnel and labs to collect and process the sample. Blood test results can give better details and reveal more information other than just the presence of drugs in your system. Consequently, these results do take more time to process.

Advantages of a blood test for drugs and alcohol:

  • Generally detects recent use
  • Has an established laboratory test method

Disadvantages:

  • Can be expensive
  • Has a limited window of detection
  • Specimen collection is invasive (through venipuncture)
  • May have a risk of infection
  • Requires training to be able to collect specimen samples
  • It may not be an available option for an individual with poor venous access

Therefore, even though blood tests for drugs and alcohol are the most accurate testing method, they are also the least accessible and most time-consuming.

Blood Test for Drugs and Alcohol Alternative: Urine Tests

One alternative to a blood test for drugs and alcohol is urine tests. Urine testing is the standard employee testing method for primarily detecting drugs (though it can detect alcohol as well). It is due to its accuracy and relatively low cost. Moreover, it is less intrusive than that blood testing. A urine test sample does require a registered laboratory and a certified sample collector, much like blood tests. However, the means of attaining the sample is much easier. Furthermore, some testing facilities also offer on-site urine testing for drugs and alcohol. On-site testing means that employers may no longer need to send their employees to the testing facilities. Employees no longer needing to leave the workplace to get tested can maintain workplace productivity.

Advantages:

  • Available in sufficient quantities
  • Higher concentrations of parent drugs and metabolites than in a blood test for drugs and alcohol
  • Availability of point-of-care tests (POCTs)
  • Well-researched testing methodology

Disadvantages:

  • Short to intermediate window of detection
  • Easy to adulterate or substitute
  • May require observed collection
  • Some employees may experience “shy bladder” syndrome, which makes them hard to produce a specimen sample

Blood Test for Drugs and Alcohol Alternative: Breath Tests

Another alternative to a blood test for drugs and alcohol is breath tests. A breath test detects how much alcohol is in the air you breathe out using a device called a breathalyser. It measures the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) from the breath sample provided to the device. With the latest innovations, some breathalysers can now be able to detect drugs and other medical prescriptions. However, they are still primarily for alcohol testing. It is because of how efficient, cost-effective and accurate they are for alcohol detection. Moreover, they are the least invasive and intrusive than all drug and alcohol testing methods. Employees need only to blow into the mouthpiece of the device then BAC results will show immediately.

Advantages:

  • Well-established method for alcohol testing
  • Readily available

Disadvantages:

  • Used primarily for alcohol testing
  • Short window of detection (about 24 hours)
  • It may be challenging to obtain an adequate sample if employees are uncooperative
  • Uncommon in a clinical setting

blood-test-drugs-and-alcohol.

BACtrack Workplace Breathalysers at Breathalysers Australia

When considering breath testers as an alternative to a blood test for drugs and alcohol, it is ideal to choose the best devices available. Breathalysers Australia offers a selection of high-quality BACtrack workplace breathalysers. BACtrack breathalysers use fuel cell sensor technology to measure the BAC accurately. Fuel cell sensors have professional-grade accuracy. Moreover, these devices have a one-button operation feature which makes them user-friendly. The device can immediately warm up the sensors as soon as you press the power button. Thus, it can provide BAC results in just 10 to 15 seconds after giving a breath sample. Breathalysers Australia also offers additional mouthpieces to allow multiple testing without interfering with the results. Workplace alcohol breath testing is now even more efficient and cost-effective with BACtrack workplace breathalysers available at Breathalysers Australia.

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