Drug tests in the workplace are becoming more common, with employers getting smart to the fact that 70 per cent of drug users are actually fully employed, according to a United Nations report on worldwide drug use. However, if you’re an employer and you haven’t implemented a drug testing program, here are some things you need to know about it.
Common forms of drug testing
At present, there are four forms of drug tests commonly used in a workplace setting. There is pre-employment testing, which means drug tests on job applicants. Another one is a post-incident drug test, which is conducted on personnel involved in a workplace accident. Random drug testing, meanwhile, is an unannounced drug test done on personnel whose names were taken at random. Finally, the rarely done universal drug test, which involves testing everyone, whether scheduled or unannounced.
These days, it has become harder for employers to find good and skilled people who are actually free of drugs. Since it can be incredibly frustrating for both potential employer and job candidate to go through all the tests and interviews only to fail in the end because of a pre-employment drug test, employers are advised to state in their application forms that potential hires will be required to pass a drug test before any job offer is extended. That way, you are discouraging drug users from wasting their and your time by applying for the job.
Typically, a job candidate is notified by the potential employer to report to a specific testing center at a specific time. If a candidate fails to show up, it means the applicant will not be receiving a job offer. As with other forms of drug tests, the job candidate will be asked to provide a sample, and the sample depends on the drug screening method being used. Urine samples are the most common, although in some cases, some employers ask for saliva, hair blood, or even sweat.
These tests are often “five-panel” tests, designed to detect traces of five specific street drugs. They are amphetamines like ice or speed), cocaine, PCP, also known as Phencyclidine or angel dust, opiates like heroin, morphine and codeine and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana or cannabis.
Many workplace accidents are drug-related, and it’s imperative for employers to find out who is to be held responsible for the accident so that management may be able to take the appropriate action. A post-incident drug test will be able to detect if any of the personnel involved was suffering from impairment caused by drugs. However, such a test should be done immediately after the incident, if at all possible.
In most cases, a positive test result leads to the immediate termination of the employee involved, but some employers take the more compassionate route and give the employee another chance by helping him or her get treatment and return to work once the treatment is done.
Random drug tests in the workplace
As the name suggests, random drug testing is periodic and usually unannounced testing of all workers who under certain job classifications. For the tests to be truly random, employers can use software that picks the names of employees at random, or have a third, independent party do it for them. Absolute randomness is a must, because one hint of bias non-randomness can lead to a possible discrimination suit against the employer.
Universal drug testing
It is not common for employers to conduct universal drug testing, and its conduct is often limited to a few professions, usually top-level sports such as athletics, football, baseball and cycling. A universal drug test can be scheduled or randomised, but everyone gets tested at the same time; no exceptions.
Despite how common it’s becoming, you need to know that drug testing in the workplace remains a tricky issue. That’s why before you implement a drug testing program in the workplace, consult your attorney to make sure all legal bases are covered.