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The Importance of Drug Testing in the Workplace

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Pre-employment screenings and periodic workplace drug testing is becoming a common practice in serious and proactive organisations. This is just as companies are increasingly battling the consequences of drug and heavy alcohol use among their personnel and therefore undertake substance abuse detections to reduce workplace risks, improve general safety and drive home the drug prohibition message to employees.

Statistics show that drugs and alcohol abuse in the workplace impact heavily on businesses and productivity levels, costing several billions of dollars and increased healthcare spending annually. In more specific terms, hard data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the US underline the importance of drug testing in the workplace.

The study reveals that employees who abuse drugs and alcohol are 2.5 times more likely than employees who are non-users to be absent for 8 or more days in a year. They are also more likely to be involved in workplace accidents by 3.6 times more than co-workers; and 5 times more likely to file for a workers’ compensation claim.

However, since drug testing for staff became commonplace in companies from around 1980, there has been a significant decrease of evidence of drug use among tested employees.

How Drug Testing Can Improve Business Productivity

  • Employees perform better at their tasks
  • Reduction in workplace accidents, violence and thefts.
  • General workplace safety
  • Decrease in absenteeism
  • Reduction in employees’ compensation insurance and healthcare costs
  • Compliance with state laws and regulations
  • Boost in consumer confidence about workplace safety
  • Discourage workers from abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Minimizes the risks of hiring potential drug and alcohol addicts

What You Should Note Before Testing

Although workplace drug screening is a commendable idea and will ultimately increase productivity levels in your business, you should adhere to global best practices while carrying out your testing programme for employees or new hires to keep their confidence and avoid legal issues.

  • Don’t discriminate. If you’re carrying out a random drug test on workers, let it cut through the entire workforce and the process be same for everyone.
  • Make sure to confirm that the terms in your employment contract clearly states your right to ask to screen an employee for drug or alcohol use or abuse, the testing method, and frequency.
  • Keep the confidence and trust of your employees- talk to them and give them fair notice of the test day and time.
  • Where the drug test establishes a case of drug misuse, it should be handled as a disciplinary matter and fully documented. As part of global best practice policy, the employer should in addition provide support of the worker to get necessary treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.
  • The employee should have and follow a written procedure, witnessed and signed by every tested employee with full documentations.

What to Test For

In deciding what substances to test for in employee drug screening, factors like the demographic and local issues should be considered by the test kit supplier to help in choosing the best test kits combinations. But as a general rule, evidences of these drugs should be tested in the employees: marijuana, heroin, cannabis, cocaine, methadone, benzodiazepine, skunk, amp amphetamine, met methamphetamine, and MOP/OPI opiates.


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