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Drug and Alcohol Policies for Employees: What to Include

19 October, 2023

Five employees working healthily in a workplace

Illicit substance abuse is a prevalent issue that can greatly impact businesses. Therefore, maintaining a safe and healthy work environment is crucial for any organisation. One way to ensure this is by implementing effective drug and alcohol policies for employees. Accordingly, employers should know what to include in such strategies for successful execution. This includes clear regulations, testing procedures, confidential services, rehabilitation services, and more.

Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace can have a severe negative impact. It costs employers billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, workplace accidents, and healthcare expenses. This is why many businesses have workplace policies in place to address these issues. Consequently, having a precise and fair policy is crucial to protect both the organisation and the workers. This article will present about the types of tests, the grounds for testing, and the legality and rights.

Drug and Alcohol Policies for Employees: Types of Tests

Drug and alcohol policies for employees are essential to maintain a safe working environment. One crucial aspect of these policies is the types of tests to assess the workers for alcohol and drug-related issuesAustralian workplaces commonly include tests like saliva, urine, blood, hair, and breathalyser tests.

The saliva tests are a quick and non-invasive testing process. It involves the collection of oral fluid using a swab. Hence, it can monitor illicit drugs and alcohol usage within a few hours. The urine sample test can detect substance use within the past few days. On the other hand, the process that provides a more accurate result is blood testing. This can identify alcohol and drugs for up to 12 hours after consumption.

Additionally, the hair tests offer a longer detection window. It can detect substance abuse within 90 days as drug or alcohol metabolites enter the hair follicle. For alcohol consumption, employers can use a breathalyser device to monitor legal blood alcohol levels. This method gives an accessible and prompt result in relation to alcohol use.

Substances that Can Be Detected

The following are the substances that are detected in illicit drug and alcohol testing:

  • Ethanol – a common substance in alcohol. This can impair judgment, coordination, and overall function.
  • Marijuana – it has an active component known as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This can impair cognitive function and motor skills.
  • Cocaine – a powerful stimulant drug that can speed up the heart rate and increase energy.
  • Amphetamines – these are abused in prescription drugs to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. This can cause alertness, boost energy, and decrease appetite.
  • Opioids – this includes heroin, morphine, and prescription pain medications. This can lead to drowsiness, respiratory depression, and addiction.

A man having a fall accident while working

Drug and Alcohol Policies for Employees: Grounds for Testing

Implementing drug and alcohol policies for employees is vital to avoid unsafe work practices, especially for critical positions. Accordingly, many organisations administer the testing in various ground conditions. One approach is pre-employment. This helps ensure that applicants do not have any substance abuse issues that may impact their ability to perform the job safely and effectively.

Another ground is the random testing. This involves selecting current employees randomly and conducting alcohol and drug testing without prior notice. It assists in eliminating substance use in the workplace due to the possibility of testing. Moreover, reasonable suspicion testing allows employers to take action if an employee is suspected to be under the influence.

In addition, post-accident testing helps determine if drugs or alcohol contributed to an incident and can also aid in legal proceedings. Finally, follow-up testing is essential for cases where an employee has had a positive result. This is to monitor progress and compliance with rehabilitation programs. Overall, policies and testing procedures are essential for safeguarding the well-being of employees and maintaining a productive and safe workplace environment.

Can an Employee Refuse a Test

An employee generally has the right to refuse a drug and ethanol test. However, this can have consequences depending on the policy. In some industries, such as rail transport or construction, employers require them to undergo regular testing as a condition of employment. Refusing a test could result in disciplinary action or termination.

On the other hand, in other industries, an employee may have more scope to refuse a test with valid reasons. It is important for both employers and employees to have a clear employment agreement with respect to laws and regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing.

Four employees sitting for drug and alcohol testing

Drug and Alcohol Policies for Employees: Legality and Rights

Drug and alcohol policies for employees in the workplace are vital for safety initiatives. However, it is crucial for organisations to know the considerations and the legal rights in enforcing such strategies. The employers must comply with the laws. Conforming with these legal requirements protects both employers and employees, ensuring fair treatment and adherence to the law.

Moreover, the company has a legal responsibility to inform workers about the policy. They should inform workers through various communication channels, such as emails or training. Organisations must also respect the privacy rights of the workers. Hence, the process should be in a manner that favours the confidentiality of the employee.

Accordingly, consent for the testing is vital in the procedure. It is the employee’s permission to obtain a sample for analysis and accountability to face the consequences of the results. Some legality also includes the right of an employee to refuse a test. In such cases, the employer should have a clear understanding of the applicable consequences of the refusal.

Legal Liability for Employers

Employers have a legal liability for incidents that take place in the workplace. The organisation have the duty of care to employees to ensure their safety and well-being. This includes protecting the worker from the harm of illicit substances. Also, the employer must be cautious when implementing the policy. It must adhere to the state’s health and safety legislation.

A negligent employer may be subject to legal issues, including lawsuits, penalties, and fines. Accordingly, the company has the responsibility to establish support for employees who seek help for substance abuse issues. This includes treatment programs, counselling services, and other therapies.

Conclusion

The drug and alcohol policies for employees are beneficial to promoting safety and eliminating the risk of adverse effects. Ensuring effective guidelines is vital for the workers to conform to such strategies. Therefore, it is essential to create a policy that includes the purpose of the plan, the types of testing, and the grounds for the assessment. Moreover, employers must conform to legal laws and the rights of the employees, including the consequences of testing refusal.

In the methods of testing, there are many substances that can be detected. Thus, it can identify if an employee is not suitable for the specific job role. It is vital to know that the workers can refuse a test; however, this can have an impact on the terms of employment. Finally, it is important for employers to recognise the legal liability with regard to the policy.

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