Drug And Alcohol Screening in The Workplace Overview and Guidelines
14 August, 2023
Drug and alcohol screening is the process of examining biological specimens to detect prohibited substances in a person. Workplaces use this procedure to identify employees posing safety risks. Thus, it can significantly help reduce accidents and injuries due to substance abuse or impairment. Employers establish a drug and alcohol policy to facilitate these tests. It outlines the organisation’s objectives and testing procedures to conduct the tests fairly and efficiently. It also guides employees on proper behaviour at work.
Substance abuse is a major concern in many workplaces. It can result in costly accidents, legal liabilities, and low productivity. Therefore, screening methods help protect employers and employees from hazards associated with drug and alcohol abuse. By implementing proper procedures, companies can address substance abuse and other related issues effectively. This article will give an overview of screening in the workplace for drugs and alcohol, along with established guidelines to ensure compliance.
What is Drug and Alcohol Screening?
Drug and alcohol screening is a process of testing biological specimens to detect prohibited substances in a person. It aims to identify employees under drug and alcohol influence during working hours. To achieve this, companies hire testing services or use rapid test kits and devices. These testing options may depend on the size, budget, and policy of the organisation.
The process involves looking for drug metabolites, substances produced when the body breaks down and digests drugs. Detecting these byproducts indicates a person has consumed within a specified period. Moreover, different test types have varying cut-off levels. A test may show a positive result if the drug reaches that level. It will also depend on the sensitivity of the testing equipment.
Many accredited clinics and laboratories provide complete screening and testing services in Australia. Alternatively, companies can make use of professional tools to facilitate in-house testing. These tools are easy to use and give results within a few minutes. Therefore, they offer organisations the convenience of quick assessment whenever necessary and without high costs.
Its Importance and Purpose
- Substance screening helps minimise accidents, injuries, and impairment-related risks and improves safety.
- Determine if employees use prohibited substances that could affect their performance and judgement at work.
- Ensure workers are not impaired while operating heavy machinery, equipment, or vehicle.
- Identify individuals with substance abuse and offer assistance for treatment or rehabilitation.
- Comply with legal regulations in providing a safe and hazard-free environment for employees.
- Reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.
- Protect the reputation of the company and boost the morale of employees.
- Ensure a fair and consistent approach towards all employees, promoting equal treatment.
- Deter potential substance abuse or addiction.
What Can Be Detected in Drug and Alcohol Screening?
Drug and alcohol screening searches for illegal substances and the misuse of prescription medicines and alcohol. It commonly detects marijuana or cannabis, cocaine, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy), phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines. These substances have a high potential of developing dependency or addiction. They can also severely impair the senses, judgement, and bodily functions of a person, leading to accidents.
A drug screening can also detect if an individual uses a prescription drug other than its intended medical purpose. Some people may take drugs because of the effects they can give, such as feelings of being “high” or “euphoric”. However, when taken with incorrect dosage, it can lead to detrimental consequences in mental and physical health.
In addition to drugs, the screening process includes detecting ethanol. High alcohol levels in the system can impair a person within a few minutes after consumption. Therefore, many institutions test for alcohol to ensure complete risk management. Overall, the screening can detect a wide range of drug classes and metabolites, depending on the test type.
Types of Screening Methods and their Detection Periods
There are several types of screening methods with varying detection periods. One common type is a urine test which can trace drugs within the last 48 to 72 hours. Saliva testing has a shorter window of 24 to 48 hours. It is suitable for determining recent drug consumption.
A breath test can trace alcohol for 12 to 24 hours after the last intake through a breathalyser. The device also measures Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or intoxication levels. Lastly, a blood test can detect specific substances within 6 to 12 hours. It is ideal for post-incident cases or confirmatory testing to validate an initial non-negative outcome.
Essential Guidelines for Drug and Alcohol Screening
The implementation of drug and alcohol screening may vary from one company to another. However, there are essential guidelines that organisations must follow and prioritise. It is vital to establish clear policies and procedures regarding substance use and testing procedures. Employers must communicate these policies to all employees for proper guidance.
Furthermore, it is crucial to use reliable testing methods and services to obtain accurate and valid results. Companies may employ accredited collection centres to perform the test on-site. These drug and alcohol testing services adhere to Australian standards to secure the chain of custody when collecting and processing the specimens. Alternatively, instant drug test kits and professional breathalysers are cost-efficient solutions for companies conducting regular monitoring or in-house testing.
During the initial drug screen, if an employee returns with a non-negative result, the company requires follow-up or confirmatory testing. This test undergoes advanced laboratory techniques to identify and quantify the amount of drug used. If the final result is positive, the employer may enforce disciplinary actions based on the policy.
What Should The Policy Include?
The alcohol and drug policy should outline the company’s expectations of employee conduct related to substance use. It includes the types of tests and a list of illicit drugs to be tested for. In addition, it includes the circumstances or needs for testing, such as pre-employment medical assessment, post-incident, and random testing.
The policy must also state the consequences of returning with a positive test result. Most companies impose a suspension or termination depending on the case. It also includes guidelines for when an employee refuses a drug test. Equally important, employers can offer treatment assistance to workers struggling with substance abuse.
Drug and alcohol screening is an essential part of any workplace safety program. It helps detect if employees are impaired or dealing with a substance dependency. The process involves examining specimens like urine, saliva, blood, or breath to determine the presence of drugs of abuse, alcohol, or their metabolites. Companies may employ screening services or use instant kits and devices. Moreover, the choice of test methods depends on various factors, such as detection periods, accuracy, convenience, and reason for testing.
Employers must establish a comprehensive workplace drug policy to administer these tests in a lawful and ethical manner. This includes outlining the procedures for collecting specimens, reporting results, and consequences of a positive outcome. Thus, the policy serves as a guide for employees to comply with the company’s safety regulations. In conclusion, following the guidelines for screening is essential for ensuring a safer environment for staff and the general public.