Let’s face it — there is a significant degree of resistance to drug testing in the workplace. More often than not, this opposition to workplace drug testing revolves around privacy issues. Many workers claim that drug tests that rely on drawing blood, urine, or even saliva samples are a clear invasion of their privacy, and they are more likely to file cases against their employers because of these tests.
However, if the increasing incidences of workplace drug use and addiction are any indication, workplace drug testing is likely to increase as employers are becoming more determined to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace.
Consequences of illegal drug use in the workplace
Many employers have already found themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit that arose out of workplace drug testing. Typically, such lawsuits come from employees who have been dismissed because they tested positive for drugs, claiming they were unfairly sacked and demanding to be reinstated to their old jobs. In the grander scheme of things, unfair dismissal lawsuits are the least of an employer’s worries. What most employers should be worried about are workplace injuries or deaths that are a direct consequence of illegal drug use in the workplace.
Surveys have revealed that many full-time employees have admitted to taking illegal drugs within two hours of reporting for work. This means that these workers are showing up for work impaired, which could lead to results that are nothing less than disastrous. For those who work in an office setting, coming to work drunk or high on drugs could cause conflict in the workplace, as many illicit drugs alter behaviour and make users less inhibited and more aggressive.
Impairment and safety-sensitive jobs
The bigger problem, however, is when a drug-impaired employee is actually tasked to operate heavy machinery or any safety-sensitive job. The likelihood of accidents increase exponentially, and there have been many cases of someone in the workplace getting injured or losing their lives because someone violated a company’s policy about drugs in the workplace. Injuries or death in the workplace exposes an employer to a multitude of lawsuits, which are far more exhausting and resource-draining than unfair dismissal cases.
In fairness, the contention of employees that drug testing violates their right to privacy is quite valid, and there are laws to back it up. However, most of the complaints about drug testing focus on urine testing, which many workers say is not only invasive, but also unhygienic. For many workers, a more acceptable method for drug testing in the workplace is mouth swab testing, saying it’s safer and less invasive than the outdated urine drug testing.
Employers have every reason to worry about illicit drug and alcohol use in the workplace. They also have every right to ask applicants and employees to take drug tests. Given that employees do have the right to privacy, perhaps employers should implement a less invasive drug testing method like mouth swab testing to avoid claims of invasion of privacy.
Nevertheless, with workplace health and safety as their priority, we can only expect more employers to develop drug and alcohol testing policies and implement workplace drug testing in the future.