Workplace Drug And Alcohol Testing Procedure – Different Types
11 September, 2023
Companies implement workplace drug and alcohol testing procedures to maintain a safe, productive, and healthy working environment. This involves screening employees for the presence of illegal drugs and alcohol in their system. There are different types of testing procedures that may be used, depending on the purpose and scope of the testing. The common methods are urine, oral fluid, breath, hair follicle, and blood tests. Companies can facilitate these tests through a workplace policy.
Drug and alcohol use often leads to impairments in judgment or reasoning, perception, and motor functions. This negatively affects a person’s ability to operate a vehicle or perform tasks safely. Moreover, it may lead to substance abuse disorders, affecting health in the long run. Therefore, many organisations implement drug and alcohol testing to manage safety risks. This article will present the different testing methods and their benefits and advantages.
Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Procedure – Urine Test
Urine analysis is a widely used workplace drug and alcohol testing procedure due to its efficiency. It involves the collection of urine samples from employees and analysing them in a laboratory. A urine screen is a test of the specimen using immunoassay to detect illicit substances. This method gives instant results but does not measure the amount of the substance present.
Companies often employ urine testing because it can detect drugs and alcohol for an extended period. The detection window of urine is 48 hours, depending on the drug class and amount taken. Advanced tests may trace drugs up to 72 hours or longer. It would also depend on whether the person is a chronic user and the individual’s metabolism.
Urine tests are generally accurate and reliable. However, false positives and false negatives can occur. A false positive can happen due to cross-reactivity with certain medications, leading to a positive result even if the individual has not consumed a drug being tested for. On the other hand, a false negative result can occur if the drug concentration in urine is below the detection threshold.
Advantages of Urine Analysis
- Urine testing is less invasive and easy to administer.
- A urine drug screen can give results after a few minutes.
- The specimen can detect a wide range of substances, including illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and ethanol.
- Urine provides a longer detection window compared to other methods.
- Urine test kits are cost-effective and widely available, making it a practical option for drug screening.
- The sample can be re-tested in a laboratory using more advanced methods in case of a non-negative screening result.
- It allows for early detection of substance use, enabling timely intervention for people at risk or developing addiction.
Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Procedure – Oral Fluid and Breath Tests
Oral fluid testing is another popular workplace drug and alcohol testing procedure due to its convenience. Employers may use it as the primary testing method or as an alternative to urine. The test involves collecting saliva samples through a mouth swab and analysing them through immunoassays or chromatography. This method is non-invasive and does not have the privacy issues that urine has.
Saliva screens detect drugs and alcohol within 5 to 48 hours after use. However, some drugs may be detectable for a longer period of time. It can trace recreational drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, and benzodiazepines. Additionally, the test can be done in the presence of the administrator, minimising the possibility of tampering.
On the other hand, breath testing mainly detects ethanol or alcohol consumption. It uses a breathalyser device to capture and examine the breath sample. The device can also measure the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of a person. It is the amount or percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. Moreover, breath tests can detect alcohol within minutes up to 24 hours. This method is non-invasive and gives quick results.
Benefits of Saliva Testing and Breath Analysis
Saliva and breath analysis offers a non-invasive method to test for drugs and alcohol. Firstly, the sample collection for saliva is easy and is always available, except in cases of dry mouth. Likewise, a breath test can be taken virtually anywhere. Both procedures can give fast results.
Secondly, they are suitable for various situations, such as random monitoring, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion cases. Their short detection window can indicate the employee has only recently consumed drugs and alcohol. This helps determine if prohibited substances have contributed to any untoward incidents. Lastly, they can help prevent the risk of harm through timely detection.
Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Procedure – Hair Follicle and Blood Tests
A hair follicle drug test can detect drug metabolites in hair samples for up to 90 days. This provides the longest detection window among the testing methods. It involves collecting a small sample of hair from the scalp and submitting it for laboratory testing. This test can help determine if an employee abuses drugs or alcohol.
A hair test is used less frequently as a workplace drug and alcohol testing procedure because of its long look-back period. This is because it cannot determine recent impairment or the exact time when a person has taken a drug. Nevertheless, it can be useful in monitoring drug use or abstinence for a person under rehabilitation or treatment.
Blood tests are the most accurate way to measure the amount of drugs or alcohol in an individual’s body. It has a short detection window, ranging from 6 to 24 hours after ingestion. Blood tests may be used for post-accident investigations and confirmatory drug testing. However, it is intrusive and costly.
Accuracy and Reliability
Hair follicle and blood tests provide a reliable analysis of a person’s drug and alcohol content. Alcohol and drug metabolites deposit in the hair strands and stay as the hair grows. It is also difficult to tamper with or manipulate the results. Thus, it is a highly accurate testing procedure.
A blood test can detect all types of drug classes within a shorter time frame. It uses laboratory procedures that can provide a detailed report of alcohol and drug usage based on specific cut-off points. Additionally, the results of the test are admissible in court in case of legal challenges.
Workplace drug and alcohol testing procedures take several forms to detect illicit substances in a person. They are safety initiatives to help manage the hazards of substance impairment. The common methods are urine, oral fluid, breath, hair, and blood testing. Each type has varying detection periods, accuracy, cost, and uses. They are valuable in pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and random monitoring. In addition, they can help address alcohol and drug issues and deter abusive or risky behaviours in the workplace.
Efficiency and accuracy are the top priorities when it comes to drug and alcohol tests. The results of the tests can significantly impact the employees. Thus, employees must ensure to employ testing complying with Australian Standards for valid and reliable results. Furthermore, companies must outline the conditions of these tests through a comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol policy. Therefore, all employees know and understand the purpose of these measures and help in securing a healthy work environment.