Using drugs in the workplace can lead to hazardous situations that can cause serious injuries or even death to employees. Keeping the workplace safe for employers ought to be a major priority for an employer, and this is one of the main reasons that many employers carry out drug testing at work.
Some professions, such as the military and other sensitive or dangerous occupations, test for drugs before employing people and continue to carry out random drugs testing. Statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggest that close to 70 per cent of users of illegal drugs has a part-time job at least, so it is not surprising that employers are keen to monitor their workforce.
Testing new employees for substance abuse is a pragmatic way to contribute to workplace safety and to ensure that employees are as productive as possible. The vast majority of employees would rather be safe in their place of work than complain about a random drugs testing program. They are also interested in making positive contributions to the productivity of their workplace, and if alcohol or drugs affect some colleagues they will not contribute as effectively as those who are non-users. Absenteeism and illness are also factors to be taken into account with employees that have a drug problem.
It should be made clear to new employees exactly what the company expects on the drug testing issue, and guidelines, rules and regulations should either be a stand-alone policy or part of an occupational health and safety policy. New employees will want to know they are being treated fairly and not differently to those who have preceded them. A contented workplace is one where people feel safe and valued, and this wellbeing contributes to the quality and amount of work they can achieve.
New employees are, of course, entitled to refuse to take a drug test but that will be seen as tantamount to admitting guilt and not a wise move under the circumstances. Drug testing can only be carried out with an employee’s permission so employers should be mindful of this: they cannot insist.
Testing for common drugs
Most companies use their own drug test kits they have purchased from specialist suppliers. Apart from the misuse of alcohol, which can be tested for by analysis of a hair or a breath test, employers generally look for pointers to the five street drugs most commonly used; marijuana, phencyclidine, opiates, amphetamines and cocaine. Opiates include opium, codeine and heroin, with amphetamines including ecstasy, crank, speed and methamphetamines – all illegal. Tests can also screen for crack cocaine and hash, which is a by-product of marijuana. Phencyclidine is commonly known as angel dust and is often referred to as PCP.
Drug and alcohol testing specialists will supply the appropriate drug test kits required by a company, and will provide full training and back up. A common form of testing is by taking a sample of urine, and these are sent to a laboratory for full analysis with a fast turnaround of results.