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Drug Test for Job: What It Is, Types of Tests, & Legal Considerations

11 March, 2024

An employer handing a drug test for and testing kit

Drug tests for a job have become a standard practice for many employers, especially in safety-sensitive industries in Australia. It is a process of identifying if the individual has traces of drugs or their metabolites in their system. There are several types that employers can use, including urine tests, saliva tests, blood tests, and hair tests. However, companies must ensure they comply with the relevant laws and regulations and maintain the confidentiality of the medical records and test results.

Drug testing is a measure that contributes to a safer workplace. This is why many companies create testing policies to outline the process and inform their employees about it. Besides pre-employment drug screens, they can also conduct post-accident, blanket, reasonable suspicion, and random testing programs for workplace health and safety. This article will present what a workplace drug test is, the types of tests, and the legal considerations.

What is a Drug Test for a Job?

A drug test for a job is a screening process employers use to determine the presence of drugs in the system of an individual. It is a proactive measure crucial to industries in Australia, especially those that are high-risk. There are several types that companies may select from according to the specific circumstances and their needs.

There are several reasons to conduct a drug screen at work. Firstly, pre-employment drug testing helps employers identify substance abusers and disqualify them from safety-critical job positions. Secondly, random drug testing is an effective way of deterring employees from illicit drug use since employees cannot predict when they may undergo a test.

Thirdly, post-accident testing is a vital part of the investigation process. It helps determine if the misuse of drugs was a contributing factor to the incident. Fourthly, reasonable suspicion testing occurs when the employer or manager has cause to believe that they are violating the company policy on drug usage. Lastly, blanket testing is a procedure wherein all employees on the work site undergo a drug screen to reduce safety risks.

Importance of Testing

  • Drug testing is crucial for maintaining workplace safety.
  • It provides employers with necessary information that can help them avoid making adverse hiring decisions.
  • Screening for substance misuse also helps them identify hazards and establish safeguards to prevent them from occurring again.
  • This helps them fulfil their legal obligation to eliminate or minimise safety concerns within company premises.
  • Tests also help improve productivity by ensuring that workers are not experiencing substance impairment while fulfilling their duties.
  • It can also contribute to a more friendly team environment, increasing morale and lowering turnover rates.
  • Screening also reduces healthcare costs and insurance premiums from lower accident rates.

A professional holding a container with urine samples and dip sticks

Types of Drug Tests for a Job

Business owners can incorporate several types of drug tests for a job to ensure a comprehensive screening. One popular option is the urine drug test. It uses urine samples to detect various drug metabolites present in the system of the prospective employee. It is considered the standard method for workplace drug testing because it is relatively non-invasive and has a detection window of days to weeks.

Another common option is saliva drug testing. It is ideal for rapid onsite testing since its collection process is easy and does not require using bathroom facilities. Moreover, it is valuable for detecting recent use due to its short detection period of about 12 to 48 hours.

Furthermore, blood testing is another method that has a short detection window. However, it is integral to testing due to its high level of accuracy. It is less common for initial screening due to its invasive collection procedure. Nevertheless, it is ideal for confirmatory testing. Lastly, hair follicle drug tests can help employers acquire a history of substance use to ensure the job applicant is free from substance use disorders.

Common Drugs Being Detected

Comprehensive workplace drug testing can detect the common drugs of abuse. They are a mix of prescription medications and illegal drugs. These include amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, cannabis (THC), opiates, and benzodiazepines. Some tests also opt to screen for phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust), barbiturates, and ethanol.

Ultimately, the detectable substances depend on the panels available in the drug test kits or the ones they use in the laboratory for analysis. However, many stick to tracing the common types of misused drugs since costs generally increase based on the number of panels. Moreover, employers may determine which substances to test for by conducting a risk assessment.

A mallet on a sound block in front of a book and a scale

Legal Considerations for Drug Tests for a Job

There are several legal considerations when conducting drug tests for a job. For pre-employment testing, companies must inform potential employees that passing a drug screening is a requirement for getting a job offer. Moreover, they must inform them of the drug testing methods and substances they will test for.

Furthermore, companies must comply with the relevant safety legislation and regulations regarding testing. Foremost, they must respect the rights of potential and current employees by ensuring their medical information, including the results, remains confidential. In addition, they should provide opportunities for individuals to explain or refute the results if the employee tests positive.

In addition, they must always have informed consent before testing employees for drug misuse. They should also provide alternative forms of testing if an individual has valid reasons for not being able to provide samples for a specific testing method. Lastly, the testing process should be fair throughout and conform to the company policy. Altogether, this can help protect the company from litigation.

Can an Employee Refuse a Test?

Generally, an employee cannot refuse a test. This is particularly true if they have consented to test due to the existing workplace drug testing policies. If they do refuse the initial screen, they may face disciplinary action similar to failing a test.

There are some cases wherein an employee may decline a test. One example is if they have a medical condition that prevents them from providing samples, such as dry mouth. Others may also refuse to test if they believe the reason for testing is discriminatory. However, consulting with legal counsel is ideal before doing so to avoid repercussions.

Conclusion

Drug screening is the process of tracing substance use with body samples. It is a crucial safety measure that emphasises the commitment of the company to secure workplace safety. Moreover, drug tests for a job help them make sound hiring decisions, address potential safety issues, and take action against employees violating the policy. There are different types of testing methods, such as hair, blood, urine and oral fluid testing. These can trace drug usage of amphetamines, opiates, cannabis, and cocaine.

However, employers must still ensure compliance with the applicable safety legislation and regulations. They must also get informed consent before conducting the test and protect the confidentiality of the medical records entrusted to them. Employees should also familiarise themselves with their rights regarding drug testing. They may seek advice from legal professionals or safety representatives for information. Nevertheless, drug testing significantly contributes to a safe working environment.

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