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Drug and Alcohol Pre Employment Testing: Overview

29 November, 2023

Four job applicants holding their resumes

Companies want to make sure they hire the right employees. One way they do this is through drug and alcohol pre-employment testing. This tests potential employees for substances before hiring them. It makes sure that employees are not under the influence at work. The test is a requirement for safety-critical roles. Employers can use different testing methods, such as urine and saliva testing. If the result comes back positive, the applicant may not get the job or may undergo rehabilitation.

Workplace safety is paramount to any employer. Unfortunately, some employees may cause harm due to the use of illicit drugs and other substances. Thus, workplace drug and alcohol screening during the hiring process is necessary. It prevents unsafe and impaired employees from being put into positions where they could potentially harm themselves or others. The following sections will present what pre-employment testing is, what types of tests are available, and what the consequences are for non-negative results.

What is a Drug and Alcohol Pre-Employment Testing?

Employers use drug and alcohol pre-employment testing. It screens potential employees for substance abuse. This testing is often a requirement for certain jobs. This includes those operating heavy machinery or working in safety-sensitive industries. It ensures a safe and productive work environment. In addition, it reduces the risk of accidents and injuries. They typically conduct the testing before an offer of employment is made. The results may dictate the hiring decision.

The goal of pre-employment drug tests is to determine if an individual is a potential risk to the company. The tests may look for the use of recreational drugs or misuse of prescription drugs. Similarly, alcohol testing services detect the presence of ethanol in the system. This helps employers identify potential problems before they arise.

Pre-employment testing is a must for any business looking to ensure the safety and security of their workplace. Hiring staff with past or current substance abuse issues can lead to decreased productivity, higher costs, and liability risks. With thorough screening, employers can make sure that their personnel are fit to work.

Benefits

  • Pre-employment testing can protect the company by screening out individuals who may pose a risk due to substance abuse.
  • Employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to be absent or tardy. The test helps reduce this issue.
  • Substance abuse can lead to health problems. This results in higher healthcare costs. Testing can mitigate these by identifying potential substance abusers.
  • Workers who use illegal drugs or excessively drink alcohol are often less productive. Pre-employment tests can lead to a more efficient workforce.
  • Some industries need to conduct testing to adhere to regulations. Following this practice can help businesses avoid legal issues.

A person handing a urine sample to a lab technician

Types of Methods in Drug and Alcohol Pre-Employment Testing

There are several types of methods available for drug and alcohol pre-employment testing. One common method is urine testing. This involves collecting a urine sample from the individual and testing it for the presence of substances. Many organisations utilise it because it is not as invasive as others. Moreover, it can detect substances that have been consumed within the past few days.

Another method is oral fluid testing. Lab technicians collect saliva samples from the individual. This method is also non-invasive and can detect substances that have been consumed more recently. Businesses often use saliva testing as a quick and easy way to screen for the presence of drugs or alcohol in a potential employee.

In addition, breath alcohol testing is available. This specifically tests for alcohol consumption. It requires the individual to blow into a breathalyser. The device measures the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in their breath sample. It is an effective way to assess recent alcohol consumption. Also, companies can use it as part of their safety procedures.

What are the Substances that Can be Detected?

Alcohol and drug testing methods can detect a wide range of substances. Some examples are marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and opioids. Other prescription medications include benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Furthermore, different kinds of tests can identify ethanol. This is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages.

A drug and alcohol policy should include the kinds of substances they will detect because testing procedures vary. Moreover, only some testing methods are available for certain drugs. For instance, a urine test may be the only option to detect opioids. Potential employees should be aware of what substances are being tested for and the type of testing methods.

An employer talking to a distressed-looking applicant

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

After a non-negative drug and alcohol pre-employment testing, the employer and applicant will need to address the results. Typically, the next step involves a discussion between both parties. The potential employee can provide additional information or context regarding the test results. Depending on the company policy, the employer may rescind the employment offer.

However, other companies may have more flexible policies. They may be open to working with the applicant to address any substance abuse issues. The employer may allow the applicant to seek counselling or enter into a rehabilitation program before being considered for employment. If the applicant completes a program or passes follow-up tests, they may get the job.

On the other hand, employers also need to consider potential legal implications when making decisions about drug and alcohol testing. Applicants who test positive may have grounds to file a discrimination lawsuit. This can happen if employers take punitive action against them without taking into account mitigating factors. They should also provide confirmatory testing.

Can an Employee Refuse a Test?

An employee may refuse a test if they believe it is unjustified or if the testing process violates their rights. However, refusal may lead to disciplinary action or termination, depending on company policies and employment laws. Employees should be aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding drug or alcohol testing in the workplace.

On the other hand, potential employees or applicants may also refuse testing. However, this may lead to them not getting the job. Employers must ensure that any drug and alcohol testing policies are according to applicable employment laws and regulations. For example, they should notify the applicants before testing.

Conclusion

Drug and alcohol pre-employment testing is a common requirement for many companies nowadays. The test prevents safety risks from happening. This is because employees are less likely to show up to work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Thus, their job performance will only be a liability. Business owners can choose from a variety of testing methods for prospective employees. There are urine, oral fluid, and breath testing. These tests can detect different kinds of illicit substances.

A negative alcohol or drug test result means that the applicant can potentially work in a safe environment. Meanwhile, a positive result means employers need to take further action. Depending on the severity of the situation, they may not hire the applicant or they have to undergo rehabilitation. Confirmatory testing is done after obtaining non-negative results. Employers can get a more accurate result through the second test. Consequently, they can make more informed decisions.

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