There are a number of fairly well substantiated reasons for thinking that drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace may well be on the rise. In view of that fact, and because employers are now legally responsible for providing their workers with a hazard-free, safe environment in which to carry out their tasks, it is understandable that increasing numbers of them are requesting prospective and existing staff to undergo drugs testing on a regular basis.

Drug testing existing and prospective employees

A policy of regular drug testing needs to be put in writing by a company and all new applicants for employment should be made aware that such a test is a requirement of that employment. When existing employees are requested to take such a test this should also be put in writing as part of his or her contract.

It has to be pointed out that employees cannot be forced to take a drugs test. The HR department should make a note of any such refusal, however, and should drug abuse by the individual concerned be suspected then disciplinary proceedings could be instigated.

Taking the test

There are a number of different options for performing alcohol and drug tests. A simple breath test kit is usually sufficient for detecting alcohol abuse. Either hair or blood samples will be needed to detect drug abuse.

A reputable third party company should be used to analyze the data collected, so that possible disputes may be avoided. In addition, those tested should be asked whether they currently take any prescription medications, because a number of these would register as positive in drug abuse testing.

Whilst new applicant screening will filter out possible future problems, often the only way of dealing with a current issue is to introduce regular in-house testing. The relevant trade unions should be approached in this connection and their cooperation sought.

Failing the test

Where an employee takes the test and fails it, a disciplinary hearing can be convened, and fairness is the key here. There is a significant difference between a back-office worker who takes too much alcohol just the one time, and an employee who abuses alcohol regularly whilst operating potentially lethal equipment. The stress should also be on the safety of the abuser’s fellow workers and the general productivity of the company.

Benefits of workplace drug testing

Employers want to create a safe, productive working environment for their employees, and drug testing contributes significantly to this. With a drug testing policy in place, absenteeism tends to fall, along with accident rates and thefts from the workplace. Behavioral problems also usually decrease, and with overall improved attendance, employee morale and productivity rises.

It is in the interests of both employers and the employed that the organization flourishes. Both groups do after all share the same goals and are aware that successful competition and prompt delivery are crucial to their future. Companies that do not run drug test programs often attract candidates who can’t find work elsewhere because of their substance abuse habits.

A higher ROI more than compensates for the cost of instigating a drug testing program by ensuring that the work force that is hired is more effective. Employers and employees thereby benefit from the resulting safe and secure environment, where the highest levels of productivity, safety and morale are maintained.