A Guide on Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Screening in the Workplace

Substance use presents considerable safety risks in the workplace. Alcohol, illegal drugs, and the inappropriate use of prescribed medicines can bring detrimental effects to workplace health and safety. It leads to serious injuries, high costs, and low output. In addition, the mounting cases of impairment and accidents lead to the implementation of workplace policies against substance use. Companies establish new safety procedures through prevention programs to manage safety risks. The strategies include administering pre-employment drug and alcohol screening to help keep the work environment safe and healthy. Employers facing substance use can benefit from regular drug and alcohol screening. Moreover, these methods can help improve productivity and safety in the long term.

A pre-employment drug and alcohol screening is a procedure that can help limit the negative impacts of substance abuse. Companies would typically require drug and alcohol screening to help make hiring decisions. It aims to determine if a job applicant has substance use problems that may jeopardise the workplace. Therefore, prospective employees must pass the pre-employment tests to be eligible for the job. Additionally, employers use one or several testing procedures to detect substance use. More recently, the availability of portable testing devices like breathalysers allows for efficient alcohol screening. Pro-grade devices from Breathalysers Australia can help companies conduct fast and effective alcohol breath tests.

Drug and Alcohol Screening: Why They Are Important in Pre-Employment

Illicit substance use and excessive alcohol consumption cause short and long-term effects on health and safety. It impairs basic functions such as vision, hearing, speech, judgment, and movements. In the workplace, it poses significant hazards. In particular, safety-critical jobs rely on the worker’s healthy physical conditions to perform tasks safely and effectively. Pre-employment drug and alcohol screening helps employers identify if a prospective employee is a right fit. Moreover, a pre-employment screening test is valuable due to the following reasons:

  • Identify early on if the person has a substance abuse
  • Introduce the new hire to a safe and healthy work culture
  • Save healthcare costs from potential injury claims
  • Improve workplace safety
  • Reduced absenteeism due to substance impairment
  • Minimise liabilities


Drug and Alcohol Screening Methods

Pre-employment drug and alcohol screening involves examining one or more specimens for the presence of impairing substances in the system. The testing agency collects urine, blood, saliva, hair, or breath samples for analysis during the test. In particular, the prominent test type for drugs is urine or saliva. Urine or saliva sampling can detect illegal drugs for 24 to 48 hours. However, advanced tests can trace substances for up to 72 hours. The drug test typically screens for methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and Phencyclidine (PCP). On the other hand, companies or testing agencies would typically use breath tests to screen for alcohol. A breathalyser device captures the breath sample and measures the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The BAC indicates the intoxication level. The higher the BAC amount, the greater the impairment. In workplace tests, any BAC more than 0.00% is considered as positive test.

Pre-employment Drug and Alcohol Screening: What to Expect

The employer notifies job applicants that pre-employment drug and alcohol screening is part of the requirement. Generally, it is a mandatory requirement for high-risk industries like mining, construction, transportation, and manufacturing. However, most companies nowadays would typically include drug and alcohol screening as part of hiring. Additionally, companies that conduct a pre-employment test should follow a specific set of guidelines:

  • Notify applicants in advance about the test. The job offer is dependent on passing the test.
  • Perform the same test for all applicants for the same position
  • Choose a testing laboratory that adheres to the Australian Standards: urine (AS 4308), oral fluid (AS 4760), and breathalyser (AS 3547).
  • Obtain written consent. The consent form asks the applicant to authorise the administration of drug and alcohol screening.
  • Administer the drug test.

During the pre-employment drug and alcohol screening, the applicant gives a specimen sample to the laboratory technician. The employer may use a urine or saliva test for drug screening and a breathalyser test for alcohol. In some cases, a hair strand test is necessary to determine a person’s substance use history. To pass the test, you must have a zero drug and alcohol concentration. If the initial test results are positive, the results are forwarded to a Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MRO would review the patient’s medical history to validate the results. If there is a valid medical explanation, the MRO will report the test as negative.


Workplace Safety Procedures

Managing safety risks is a top priority, especially in safety-critical industries. Pre-employment drug and alcohol screening can drastically help prevent companies from hiring dangerous individuals, reducing workplace risks. Furthermore, once hired, the applicant may be subject to regular tests if it is a part of the employment conditions. A workplace policy enables the employer to administer drug and alcohol screening in various circumstances. For example, an annual physical examination may include drug and alcohol tests. Likewise, the employers would also typically facilitate screening tests after an accident or through reasonable suspicion (of drug or alcohol use). Moreover, the policy outlines what substances are prohibited and the consequences for a positive test.

Companies that conduct a pre-employment drug and alcohol screening report lesser accidents and injury rates. It effectively lowers substance use and impairment. In effect, it improves attendance and productivity. Additionally, a pre-employment test helps hire a person with no risky behaviours or habits. It indicates that the candidate does not have illegal drugs when the specimen is collected. Employers would also spend less on compensation claims brought by workplace incidents. Therefore, it serves both the employers and staff. Lastly, ongoing monitoring is vital to protect the interest of the business and the well-being and safety of employees.

Alcohol Breath Testers at Breathalysers Australia

Pre-employment drug and alcohol screening relies on the accuracy of the test procedure and devices. In particular, the breathalyser’s dependability is crucial in hiring decisions. A workplace breathalyser like BACtrack uses fuel cell sensor technology to measure the BAC accurately. Fuel cell breathalysers are specific to ethanol and do not react with other substances in the breath. Therefore, it is less likely to produce false positives. Moreover, breathalysers are less intrusive than other procedures. Finally, their portability makes it easier to administer alcohol tests in the workplace or offsite. For example, a truck operator can take a breath test with a smartphone breathalyser like the BACtrack Mobile Gen2. After the breath test, the employee can send the BAC results for monitoring.

Breathalysers Australia has a comprehensive selection of alcohol testers ideal for personal and professional use. For pre-employment drug and alcohol screening, many companies choose the BACtrack S80 Pro Gen2 as an effective device. The breathalysers have a pro-grade accuracy consistent with the devices police use in roadside screening. Additionally, the BACtrack breathalysers process the breath sample deliver prompt results in 10 to 15 seconds. Therefore, breathalysers are practical and cost-effective in monitoring alcohol in the workplace.