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Pre Employment Drug and Alcohol Documents: The Legalities of the Policy

12 December, 2023

A group of applicants holding documents

Employers need to make informed decisions, especially when hiring for safety-sensitive positions. Pre-employment drug and alcohol documents play a crucial part in helping them make these decisions. These documents include consent forms, questionnaires, and others as stated in their company policy. Nevertheless, employers must ensure they remain compliant with the relevant laws. They must follow consent, privacy, and anti-discrimination laws during their hiring process.

High-risk industries, which include construction, aviation, and mining, carefully hire individuals they believe can fulfil the role well and responsibly. To help ascertain this, they ask applicants to undergo drug and alcohol testing. This process can help identify those who are more prone to reckless behaviours. This is crucial information to maintain both workplace and public safety. This article will give an overview of what the pre-employment documents are, the legal requirements, and the steps after a positive result.

Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Documents – What It Is?

Pre-employment drug and alcohol documents refer to the necessary paperwork employers require applicants to complete before a job offer. These documents typically involve consent forms for alcohol and drug testing and questionnaires about their substance use history. This can also include agreements related to the current drug and alcohol company policy, more so if the company conducts regular testing.

These are crucial requirements for applicants of safety-sensitive positions. Employers use them to gather information about the substance use history of potential employees. This helps them identify potential risks and prevent them from causing harm to the company. It helps them make informed decisions about hiring following their policy on drugs and alcohol.

These documents aim to ensure a safe and substance-free environment for everyone in the workplace. Impaired workers increase the risk of accidents, which can even endanger the general public. This is why companies, especially those in high-risk industries, implement screenings as part of their policies. Altogether, they help mitigate the potentially severe, negative impacts of substance misuse.

Types of Tests

  • Urine tests: use urine samples to detect the presence of drugs and ethanol. This has a detection period of 24 hours.
  • Oral fluid tests: use saliva samples to detect traces of substances. Many workplaces use this for onsite testing because of its quick and non-invasive collection procedure.
  • Breath tests: use breathalysers to analyse breath samples and measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level.
  • Blood tests: these are considered the most accurate and have a detection period of 12 hours.
  • Hair follicle tests: have the lengthiest detection period of 90 days. This helps gather a history of substance use.

A gavel on a sound block, book, and scale

Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Documents – Legal Requirements

Many employers require pre-employment drug and alcohol documents to ensure compliance with the relevant laws and regulations. There are several that companies need to follow to protect the rights of the employers and the candidates. Firstly, privacy laws. Companies must ensure that only associated personnel have access to sensitive information. This includes the alcohol and drug test results.

Secondly, consent laws. The employers must obtain permission from the individuals before conducting testing. This is done through consent forms, which must state information, such as the types of tests they will use and what substance they will test for. Typically, they incorporate this information in the job posting. This provides applicants time to prepare for the test.

Thirdly, discrimination laws. Each applicant must undergo the same process and testing method to ensure fairness among all candidates. Companies must hire accredited service providers who follow strict protocols and meet the Australian standards for testing. However, if the applicant has certain medical conditions that could affect a specific test, they may inform the employer to avoid false positive results.

Australian Standards

The Australian standards for testing refer to the regulations and guidelines established by the Australian government. These aim to ensure accurate and reliable testing procedures. They cover various aspects, including sample collection, testing methods, equipment calibration, and result interpretation.

Adhering to these standards is crucial for maintaining valid results for various purposes. This includes hiring and other medico-legal processes. For breath-testing devices, the standard is AS3547: 2019. Meanwhile, for urine tests, it is AS/NZS 4308:2023. For oral fluid testing, they must follow AS/NZS 4760:2019. Lastly, confirmatory testing must be done using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

A medical professional explaining the results

Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Documents: What Happens After a Non-Negative Result?

A non-negative result is indicative of recent drug or alcohol consumption. This is a sign of reckless and dangerous behaviour that may disqualify the applicant from the position. If they receive a non-negative result, they may expect a thorough investigation to ensure the accuracy of the test. The specific procedure and pre-employment drug and alcohol documents required will depend on the company policies in place.

Generally, this will involve a discussion between a company representative and the candidate. Here, they may present the results and allow the individual to explain. It is also possible for them to challenge the result if they believe the report is inaccurate. The candidate may consult a legal professional for advice if they were treated unfairly.

Some companies may require the applicant to take a substance abuse program as an additional requirement. But for some positions, a non-negative result may mean immediate disqualification. This can cause damage to their reputation, as well as legal issues. Hence, applicants must practice safe consumption.

Can a Candidate Request for Confirmatory Testing?

In some cases, a candidate may request confirmatory testing. It will depend on the policy of the workplace and the relevant laws and regulations. Typically, a candidate can make a formal request to challenge the false positive results. However, some may ask the applicant to shoulder the additional cost of the test.

Confirmatory testing generally entails laboratory analysis of the previous samples. Another option is to conduct a different test, such as a hair or blood test. If the following report shows a negative result, the employer can disregard the previous report and reconsider the application.

Conclusion

Pre-employment drug and alcohol documents are the paperwork applicants need to complete as part of the hiring process. This includes consent forms for testing and agreement to the current drug and alcohol policy of the company. Companies implement this to ensure compliance with the applicable laws. This helps protect workplace and public safety. In addition, it aids employers to make informed decisions about hiring individuals.

Employers may use several methods of testing. Typically, they use salivaurine, and breath tests for initial screening. If the result returns as positive, they will need to take steps according to their policy. Some companies allow confirmatory testing to contest possibly inaccurate initial results. This helps demonstrate fairness and prevents applicants from losing an opportunity due to false positive results. If the result remains non-negative, then it may disqualify the applicant from the position.

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