Businesses are built because of individuals who want to earn and to provide products and services that the public may need. However, the crippling issue on drug use in the workplace continues to plague companies of all shapes and sizes. Now more than ever, conducting workplace drug testing has become a necessity.
No company can succeed without the help of people inside the business. It’s important for the company to employ the best people for the job, and it all starts with the hiring process. This is a crucial stage wherein each applicant is interviewed and needs to undergo background checking prior to finally being hired for the position applied for.
However, the hiring process does not stop there. Part of it includes pre-employment drug testing, which has become a very vital part in deciding which applicant can be fit to perform the job.
Reasons for Workplace Drug Testing
Workplace drug testing is being implemented by companies for the following reasons:
To protect the employees and its customers
Employees who may be working under the influence of drugs or alcohol may pose danger upon themselves, fellow employees and the general public. Aside from the possible accidents that can happen, most especially those employees who are working on heavy machinery, any wrong decision could bring huge problems for the company.
To maintain productivity
Employees who are into alcohol or drug use have a higher possibility of frequently being unable to report to work. If they ever find the opportunity to push themselves to report for work, they may not be as productive as usual due to drowsiness or lack of coordination.
To decrease health care costs
Companies suffer from having to pay worker’s compensation when an employee meets an accident at work. This is why some companies would deny coverage of any injury when the use illicit drugs or alcohol comes into play.
To help the community
Companies are able to do their part in addressing drug problems in their community by way of implementing workplace drug testing. The fight against drug abuse and addiction is not something that only the government can solve; everyone in the community has a role to play.
To hopefully prevent drug use
When applicants or employees are aware that the company supports a drug-free workplace, they are more likely to stop using illegal drugs. Otherwise, they may find themselves applying for employment elsewhere.
To help rehabilitate employees
Workplace drug testing is part of a comprehensive drug program that companies implement to provide assistance to employees who are found to be positive with drugs or alcohol. By conducting workplace drug testing within the bounds of a company drug policy, employees who are found using drugs may be referred to specialists who will help them in the treatment and recovery process.
In compliance with state laws or federal regulations
Some jobs require the clearance of workplace drug testing, especially those who are working in critical and safety-sensitive industries such as aviation, transportation and mining.
Drug-Free Workplace Policy
Some employers may be in denial that any of their employees are using illicit drugs. However, careful scrutiny and the conduct of drug testing can change all that. In contrast, the absence of workplace drug testing may allow employees to work without the employer knowing that some of them are reporting to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The best way for any company to be spared from accidents waiting to happen is by implementing a workplace drug testing program. The employer needs to come up with a policy that will hopefully address the company’s thrust in maintaining a drug-free workplace. A drug-free workplace advisor from the U.S. Department of Labor can help guide employers in formulating such policy.
A standard drug-free workplace policy should contain the following information:
- The purpose or goal of the program
- The individuals covered by the policy
- The time and date when the policy will take effect
- The type of behavior that will be prohibited
- Employees informing the company about past drug-related convictions
- Implementation of drug testing
- The consequences if the policy has been violated
- Return-to-work agreement
- The type of assistance available for those who were found to be positive
It should be made clear in the policy that all current employees and new hires should be informed that any use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace – no matter how small or rare – will not be tolerated.
The policy should be cascaded to all employees, who should affix their signatures as proof that they understand. The same policy and other information pertaining to the dangers of drug use and its consequences should be handed out in the form of flyers or pamphlets. In addition, opportunities for education on workplace safety and substance abuse should also be available.
What Employees Should Expect in Workplace Drug Testing
Some employees may deem workplace drug testing unnecessary and an invasion of privacy. However, when visualized in a different perspective, employees should realize that workplace drug testing is not done for the sake of the company alone but rather for the safety of all employees.
The Drug Testing Index determines the status of drug users among employees. Despite the steady decline on rates of drug use in past years, employee drug use is starting to pick up again, particularly marijuana use. This should cause alarm to both employers and employees, as a rising trend in drug use increases the likelihood of accidents and injuries in the workplace.
A drug-free workplace policy should clearly indicate that workplace drug testing may be conducted in different situations, which include the following:
1. Pre-employment drug testing
Companies are now keener in ensuring that all prospective employees are free from any alcohol or drug problems that may interfere with the quality of work. Apart from the job interview and background check, pre-employment drug testing is now included in the hiring process.
2. Random drug testing
Upon the discretion of employers, random drug screening may be conducted on workers who have been under strict performance evaluation. Results of the drug test may be used by the employer as basis for referring employees to drug treatment specialists.
Employers are allowed to carry out random testing on employees. However, singling out a particular employee may be discriminatory unless it is justified by the nature of the job.
Searches may also be done, but this should be stated in the policy signed by the employee. Searches should be carried out by the same sex only, and should take place in the presence of a witness.
3. Return-to-work drug testing
All employees found to be positive for drugs should undergo therapy and treatment. The employer may only allow the employee to go back to the job when a return-to-work drug test produces a negative result. Otherwise, the employee will be denied to report to work or may be terminated.
The Standard Process of Taking Sample for Drug Testing
In most cases, a urine drug test is performed to determine if an individual is using any illicit substances that may interfere with job performance. It is a quick, non-invasive type of drug testing that can help detect potential substance abuse.
Drug testing should be done in the presence of a Medical Review Officer (MRO), a licensed physician who is qualified to interpret and evaluate test results as well as provide medical information.
A basic urine drug test can detect 5 types of drugs, namely:
Specimen collection procedure for a urine drug test is as follows:
- The area should be secure.
- A specimen cup is given to the individual. It is important that the genital area should be cleaned with moist cloth.
- Collect the midstream urine.
- The collection of specimen must allow the individual to have privacy unless the particular person is believed to have the intention of cheating the drug test.
- At least 45 milliliters of urine should be collected. If the employee fails to collect as much urine sample, he is advised to drink up to 24 ounces of fluid before sample extraction.
- If the toilet is to be used as the place of collection, water supply should be temporarily cut-off to avoid tampering of the specimen.
- A split sample of urine is collected. In the event that the result is positive, a confirmatory testing may be performed by the testing laboratory.
- The chain of custody form must be completed and shipped with the specimen.
Processing the Urine Sample
The first test is performed by an immunoassay test. This test should be able to determine and quantify the amount of drug present in the sample provided. There are cutoff levels from which the results are based, such as:
- Amphetamines – 1000 ng/ml
- Cannabis – 50 ng/ml
- Cocaine – 300 ng/ml
- Opiate metabolites – 300 ng/ml
- Phencyclidine – 25 ng/ml
Drug testing administrators usually give the results in terms of positive or negative and not the numeric values. A confirmatory test is performed on all initial positive tests. Should the second test remain positive, the sample may be tested in a different certified laboratory to be sent within 72 hours.
Reporting and Review of Positive Results
The MRO carefully examines each confirmed positive result to determine if there are any medical reasons for the positive result. Some medications that an individual is taking may produce a positive result, and this information should be relayed to the MRO.
The MRO will discuss the findings with the employee, and will ask if the employee is taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter-drugs or herbal medicine that could have affected the result. If it has been found out that some medications are taken by the employee, the MRO may report to the employer that the test is negative.
On the other hand, any positive result that confirms the use of illicit substances may be used by the employer as basis for refusal to hire.
Fair Reasons for Dismissal
Workplace drug testing is very significant in any workplace as it maintains a healthy and safe environment for employees while generating quality products and services to customers. However, not all employees may be complying with the company policy for a drug-free workplace.
Based on the provisions of a workplace drug testing policy, the employer has every right to dismiss any employee who is found to be:
- Frequently missing work
- Positive for drug or alcohol abuse
- Engaged in theft and dishonesty
- Performing poorly at work
- Exhibiting behavior issues