Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing
The use of drugs and alcohol has the potential to pose a real risk in the workplace.
Drugs and alcohol are used with frequency throughout the community in Australia, which has an obvious flow-on effect in the workplace as the use and abuse can lead to a range of direct and indirect impacts to your business. Drug and alcohol testing is therefore a key component of a workplace safety program.
The Impact on Business
There are several direct and indirect costs associated with the use of drugs and alcohol to a business, these may include:
Drugs and alcohol cost business $3 billion, as well as 11.5 million sick days annually.
Drugs and alcohol may be involved in as much as 20% of workplace accidents, and 10% of workplace fatalities.
Workplace drug use reduces productivity, and increases absenteeism and employee turnover.
Individuals with higher levels of substance use tend to experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress.
Therefore all workplaces face the risk of unsafe use of drugs or alcohol having a financial impact on the business. Incidents can cause injuries for the affected worker, their colleagues, or even customers and the general public. In addition, workers with health concerns might be less productive, and can influence those around them, distracting everyone from normal routines.
When should testing be conducted?
There are several occasions when testing could be conducted. An effective drug and alcohol testing program could include any or all of these, depending on the nature of your business.
Reason to Test
Pre-employment / Pre-deployment
Return to Work
Testing people before they join your organisation, or before they are deployed on an assignment
Randomly selecting a proportion of personnel to be tested
Testing all personnel in a single event. This can be conducted across the business or by area/department
Conducting a test after an incident/accident, potential accident, or 'near miss'
When a manager/supervisor has concerns about an employee's behaviour, they might request a drug and/or alcohol test
Providing employees with access to the means to test themselves, to assure they attend work safely
If a worker has previously returned a positive test, they might be required to test negative before returning to duty
How can testing be conducted?
Depending on your company policies and procedures, together with the aims and goals, the available facilities, or specific industry requirements, there are several options available to select a testing method.
Progressive Diagnostics can help you select and manage a testing method and develop a testing customised to your requirements.
The following methods are most commonly used for workplace testing:
URINE DRUG TESTING
Urine may contain detectable levels of drugs (or their metabolites) for days and for certain substances weeks after consumption.
The selected toilet area is secured to eliminate the possibility of adulteration or tampering, but respecting the donor's privacy. A urine sample is collected. The urine specimen is tested either onsite via an instant test device or the specimen can be forwarded directly to the testing laboratory.
If the on-site test result is non-negative, the sample should be forwarded for laboratory confirmation testing to provide a test result for further action as necessary under the company drug and alcohol policy.
ORAL-FLUID (SALIVA) DRUG TESTING
Oral-fluid (saliva), may contain detectable levels of drugs for hours to days after consumption. By using an oral- fluid swab, these can be identified on-site.
Oral-fluid drug testing devices can use either neat oral fluid, or be diluted with further liquids contained within the device.
If the on-site test result is non-negative, a further specimen is collected into a device and forwarded for laboratory confirmation testing to provide a test result for further action as necessary under the company drug and alcohol policy.
HAIR DRUG TESTING
Hair testing provides a longer-term view of drug use. The general rule of thumb is that hair grows around one centimetre (1 cm) per month. When drugs are consumed, trace evidence of this is secreted as the hair grows, meaning there can be detectable levels of drugs, and a rough estimate of when the growing hair was exposed to the substance.
It is generally recommended hair is cut from the scalp in a small selection of strands, and the first 3 cm (roughly three months' growth) is forwarded for laboratory analysis.