Drug and Alcohol Test For Work – Reasons To Conduct One
09 November, 2023
Drug and alcohol test for work is one of the proactive measures companies use to ensure the safety of employees. It aims to detect the presence of illegal drugs and alcohol in the system that may lead to accidents and injuries. Employers may conduct the test in various circumstances, such as pre-employment, random, and with reasonable cause. It is also essential after an accident and returning from a leave of absence.
The abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs can harm health, relationships, and careers. It can affect work performance and expose others to risks. That is why many organisations create workplace policies to manage the hazards brought about by substance use and impairment. The policy outlines when to conduct the test and the types of methods. This article will present the reasons for administering drug and alcohol tests as included in a workplace testing program.
Drug and Alcohol Test for Work – Pre-Employment
One of the main reasons companies conduct a drug and alcohol test for work is for hiring purposes. A pre-employment test helps determine if a job applicant has substance abuse issues. This is to avoid hiring someone who may jeopardise workplace safety. Moreover, a pre-employment test is a mandatory requirement for high-risk industries.
This test is vital in positions with a safety-critical nature, such as mining, construction, transportation, and manufacturing. It ensures that prospective employees can perform their tasks safely and responsibly. Therefore, passing a drug and alcohol test is one of the conditions for getting the job. On the other hand, testing positive for alcohol or illicit substances may render the job candidate ineligible for the position.
One of the benefits of pre-employment drug and alcohol testing is to screen out individuals with substance abuse disorders. For example, it can deter them from applying. In addition, drug and alcohol testing services use a variety of methods to detect substances. A combination of methods can help identify potential abuse, making it difficult for applicants to manipulate the results.
Types of Tests that Can Be Used
- Urine test – using urine samples is the most common form of pre-employment drug testing. It can detect a wide range of substances for the past several days.
- Saliva test – saliva samples can detect the recent use of drugs. It is less invasive and provides quick results.
- Breath test – a breathalyser device can measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). It indicates the level of intoxication in real time.
- Hair test – this test can trace alcohol and drug metabolites in hair strands for up to 90 days.
- Blood test – although less common, this method can measure the exact levels of drugs and alcohol.
Drug and Alcohol Test for Work – Random and Reasonable Suspicion
Random testing is another reason to facilitate a drug and alcohol test for work. This test is conducted without prior announcement. It aims to identify employees with current impairments. This test can also determine individuals who may have substance abuse problems. Since the test is unannounced, employees cannot abstain for a few days.
A reasonable suspicion test is conducted when an employer suspects an individual to be impaired while working. The employee may exhibit signs of intoxication, such as bloodshot eyes, alcohol odour in breath, and uncoordinated movements. Through this test, employers can obtain evidence of substance use. Likewise, it enables the management to make decisions, such as removing the employee from the premises to prevent accidents.
Companies may utilise various testing methods to detect the presence of alcohol and drugs. In particular, saliva and breath tests have a short detection window, making them suitable for determining recent use. Meanwhile, a urine test can trace substances for up to 48 hours for workplaces that need a wider period of detection.
Can an Employee Refuse a Test
Generally, an employee may refuse an alcohol and drug test. However, this is subject to several conditions, such as a valid medical explanation. Refusing a test, depending on the circumstances may lead to disciplinary measures. This can also be a ground for termination, especially if the employer has reasonable cause to conduct the test.
Workers are expected to submit to regular workplace drug testing as part of an employment agreement. Thus, employees must be aware of the regulations of drug and alcohol policies to avoid legal challenges. Furthermore, it is vital to document the reasons for the refusal and include a witness.
Drug and Alcohol Test for Work – Post-Incident and Return to Duty
A critical reason to conduct a drug and alcohol test for work is to determine the possible cause of an accident. Post-incident tests can help reveal if alcohol or illegal drugs are involved. This is critical if there are suspicions of substance use which led to the incident. Thus, organisations can protect themselves from potential legal liabilities or negligence claims.
Meanwhile, the return to duty test is for employees coming back from a leave of absence. This may be due to hospitalisation due to an accident or a treatment program for substance abuse. Similarly, this test is for individuals who have previously tested positive for drug and alcohol use. This aims to ensure workers are fit and sober to resume their responsibilities.
Employers need to conduct further investigations after an incident to address workplace risks. This can help identify weak areas that need improvement. In addition, it helps to update existing policies to adapt to the changing needs. Moreover, employees must report incidents and concerns that may be contributing to safety issues.
Risk Management Strategies to Avoid Future Incidents
Stringent measures may apply after an untoward accident. This is to prevent their reoccurrence and minimise work-related risks. Some companies may conduct awareness programs to educate employees on the dangers of alcohol and drug usage. Additionally, others may conduct random drug testing more frequently.
Employers may require employees to undergo rehabilitation if they are proven to have substance use disorder. This is to help them recover from addiction and return to work once ready. Under treatment, counselling and ongoing testing can help prevent relapse. Lastly, high-risk workplaces may update their safety protocols to prevent risks in operating heavy machinery.
Conducting drug and alcohol testing for work serves various purposes. One of the main reasons is to help employers during the hiring process. It allows them to determine potential employees with no risky behaviours. A random test can be an effective deterrence for employees engaging in the misuse of drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, the reasonable suspicion test helps confirm if an employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
On the other hand, a post-incident test is essential to determine if impairing substances are contributing factors. Lastly, employees returning from hospitalisation or treatment must pass drug and alcohol testing. Overall, these measures help to reduce safety risks. Employees violating the policy may face disciplinary measures, including warning, suspension, or termination. Employers may consult legal experts and safety representatives to help improve the effectiveness of a workplace drug and alcohol policy.