Drug Test at Work. Can Employers Conduct One?
20 June, 2023
Many employers conduct drug tests at work. Drug and alcohol use has a significant impact on an individual and the immediate surroundings. It is a leading cause of many workplace accidents, particularly in high-risk industries. However, there are laws and regulations that they must follow. A company must first create a policy outlining the purpose and objectives, scope, safety rules, and testing procedures. It also must present the consequences of violations.
There are several ways and situations for testing employees. Any kind or level of impairment can severely impact an organisation and its workers. Therefore, such measures are vital for ensuring a safe and healthy working environment. It also provides many advantages, such as improved productivity and reduced costs. This article will present the importance of drug tests and its benefits. It will also review the essentials of creating and implementing a workplace policy and the testing options.
The Need for Drug Testing at Work
Drug use and abuse are prevalent across many sectors. Individuals may consume them for various reasons. However, this leads to health and safety hazards, especially in driving and working. In high amounts, illicit drugs can impair perception (vision, hearing, speech), reasoning, and motor coordination. As a result, employees under the influence can pose a risk to themselves and others.
Substance impairment can lead to accidents, especially in jobs involving operating heavy equipment. Hence, drug testing at work is essential to manage these risks. It is a proactive measure in preventing untoward incidents and ensure a safe environment. In addition, investing in regular drug testing is more cost-effective than dealing with high hospitalisation costs and possible legal liabilities.
Under the Australian Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act), businesses must reduce all manageable risks in the place of work. It aims to protect employers and workers from preventable hazards, such as alcohol and other drug use. Therefore, it helps deter substance abuse and promotes a culture of safety and responsibility.
- Reduce safety risks from drug impairment
- Fewer accidents and injuries
- Lower absenteeism and employee turnover
- Improve employee productivity and work output
- Minimise healthcare costs and other expenses
- Minimise interpersonal conflict between employees, including aggressive behaviour and violence
- Boost employee morale and company integrity
- Promote responsibility and accountability
- Deter substance use. Also, identify employees struggling with addiction or disorder and offer assistance in rehabilitation
- Compliance with state or federal laws. Minimise legal disputes that may arise from accidents without proper preventive measures
- Hire suitable candidates with no unsafe habits.
- Maintain and secure an overall healthier and risk-free environment
Implementing Drug Testing at Work
Companies may conduct drug tests at work by first creating a comprehensive policy. It is a formal document that guides employers and employees on their responsibilities and actions during working hours. Once in place, employers may administer drug testing according to their needs. In addition, employees must understand and agree to the conditions of the policy.
Drug and alcohol testing is mandatory for high-risk industries like mining, transportation, and construction. It enables organisations to manage the dangers that may be present every day. For instance, these workplaces may require regular screening or random testing. Hence, it helps deter substance use and abuse. Consistent monitoring also effectively reduces the frequency of accidents or downtime.
It is also vital to conduct drug and alcohol tests after an accident. This allows the company to determine the factors that led to the incident. In addition, these tests must be carried out as soon as possible to get the most accurate results. Moreover, management may request an individual for testing if showing noticeable signs of impairment.
Drug and Alcohol Policy Guidelines
Employees rely on the drug and alcohol policy for guidance on safety measures and proper behaviour in the workplace. Additionally, it covers how the management will handle any related issues and conflicts. Hence, it must be clear and direct. It includes the essential components, such as the goals, objectives, and scope of workplace drug testing.
The policy outlines the consequences and disciplinary actions in cases of violations and offences. It includes the refusal to participate in reasonable testing requests and positive test results. Furthermore, it provides training, support, and education for workers. Lastly, it must be tailored according to the specific organisation’s needs.
Procedures for Drug Tests at Work
Employers may conduct drug tests at work using several procedures. The standard methods for workplace testing are urine, oral fluid, and breath analysis. Many companies use urine tests because they can detect a wide array of illicit substances. It can also trace usage for up to several days. Additionally, it is cost-efficient.
Oral fluid tests have also become an alternative in drug screening. Most swab test kits are limited to commonly abused substances like marijuana, amphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. Moreover, a blood test provides the highest accuracy in detecting and measuring drug concentrations. However, due to its high cost and intrusive nature, it is used to confirm a preliminary test result.
An efficient way to test for alcohol is through the breath. Alcohol stays in the system and is detectable in the breath for up to 24 hours. A breathalyser captures the exhaled air and measures Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The portable device returns the result within ten seconds. Hence, it is non-invasive and ideal for rapid testing.
Handling Positive Test Results
Determining employees with impairments helps companies make informed decisions. It focuses on preventing safety risks rather than punishment. Nevertheless, handling positive test results requires care and sensitivity. Authorised personnel may talk to the concerned individual and discuss the situation privately. Depending on the policy, the employee may face suspension or undergo counselling.
Employers may impose temporary suspension as disciplinary sanctions. Furthermore, many companies offer assistance to help workers with a substance use disorder undergo rehabilitation. An employee may be able to go back to work after successfully completing the program. Finally, it can be a ground for termination in extreme cases.
Employers can conduct drug tests in the workplace as long as it follows their policies and under reasonable grounds. These policies must align with labour laws to avoid improper implementation or legal repercussions. Moreover, they must communicate the policy to workers to ensure everyone knows the conditions and testing situations. This enables workplaces to manage, control, and effectively reduce the associated risks of drug misuse. Furthermore, it grants employees a sense of security and assurance.
There are several methods to monitor substance use and impairments. The most common procedure is a urine test. It can detect various drugs for a reasonable amount of time. It is also easy to administer. For alcohol screening, the best method is through a breathalyser. Overall, conducting drug tests consistently helps reduce the risk of accidents and improves productivity. Companies must also provide helpful solutions for affected employees, such as treatment assistance.