10 Things You Need to Know About Corporate Drug Testing
Even though illicit drug abuse is a top concern for most employers, drugs are not the only substance abused in today’s corporate world. This is why it is extremely important to talk about substance abuse testing that includes not only drugs, but the other substances commonly abused by employees as well. Substances like steroid, nicotine, alcohol can significantly affect a worker’s efficiency and productivity. Before any company can start with a drug testing program, it is best to ensure that every little detail is in place. Otherwise, you can end up juggling several lawsuits in your hands – from the workers’ union crying discrimination to a disgruntled employee seeking compensation for damages done to his life and career after getting a false positive. Substance abuse testing in the workplace is one of the most powerful tools to ensure healthy and highly productive employees – but only if done right. Many companies are not able to fully enjoy the benefits of substance abuse testing simply because they did not make the right choices when setting up their respective programs. Let’s discuss the five things to avoid when formulating drug testing programs in the workplace.
5 Things to Avoid when Starting a Drug Testing Program
1) Employee-specific drug testing program. One of the common errors in establishing drug testing programs is making it work around a specific problem employee or group of employees. Companies formulate policies and guidelines that aim to get rid of problem employees. This can be disastrous since the company may face discrimination charges and other possible legal cases when the employees sense that they are the targets of the new program. Also, this may discourage other employees who may feel that the company has not been promoting fair treatment to everyone.
2) Adapting a general drug testing program just because others are doing it. Every company is unique and so it takes a lot to come up with a program that will work for each unique environment. Many employers conduct pre-employment drug testing, just so they can say that they have a program, and don’t do follow-up testing on those who got hired. This is a waste of resources since the company spends money on drug tests under a program that does not have clear goals and well-built strategies. In addition to that, workers are now more sensitive about protecting their “right to be let alone”. It would be unfair for employees to be subjected to substance abuse tests when the company has no concrete plan and well-defined objectives to back the testing up. Companies must perform and spend resources for these tests only if the program can truly help further the cause of the organization as well as the welfare of the employees.
3) Shortsighted drug testing program. There should be a comprehensive outline of specific plans and procedures after conducting drug tests to employees. Drug testing should not be taken as the ultimate end, as the aim of a real and effective drug testing program is not merely to catch who the users are, but also to provide assistance, where possible. Good employees can also have drug problems, and it may be beneficial to offer them support or a second chance after rehabilitation. When a drug abuse test returns positive, the employer have several options – to fire the employee immediately, to seek for follow-up testing to confirm or discredit the initial results, to suspend the employee and offer a rehabilitation program, or to keep the employee in the staff, offer rehabilitation and fire him or her when another test done after a few months still returns positive. The best plan of action would depend on the company’s substance abuse policy, which must be consistent with the company’s capacity to provide assistance as well as its long-term goals, and how it has been implemented in the past. The key thing is consistency within reasonable limits.
4) Creating a drug testing program with limited understanding. A urine analysis is not the only method to test drugs. Companies must align their choice of testing method to their set goals. If you need to check current drug use of employees to avoid accidents in the workplace, especially those involved in critical locations, an oral drug test will be most helpful. It has a short window of detection and samples can be taken anywhere in no time. If you need to make sure you don’t hire anyone with drug problems, especially if your business concerns handling of money or critical information, a cheat-proof hair follicle drug test will be a good option. It is extremely accurate and a hair drug test can provide a drug history of up to 3 months. Also, the company must take extra effort to determine the medical background of every employee undergoing substance abuse testing. It is a possibility that some employees were legally prescribed to take drugs that may yield positive results in the tests. Not being able to consider this significant detail may lead to the company being dragged to long and difficult legal battles.
5) Ill-planned drug testing programs resulting to loss of money. Planning is crucial when choosing the methods of testing, the frequency of testing and the follow-up strategies for your drug testing program. You may realize that using instant drug testing kits, which allow collection of samples within the workplace in a few minutes, will be more cost-efficient than sending everyone to a drug testing laboratory, an option that requires you to pay not only for the laboratory tests but also for the employees’ time (about an hour). Those who tested positive to the instant drug tests may be sent to the laboratory for confirmatory or additional tests, and the company’s overall testing-related expenses would still be lower. As drug use evolves over time, employers also need to stay updated with the trends in drug testing, and to carefully study which ones they can use to fully maximize the benefits of having a drug testing program.
5 Workplace Substance Abuse Testing Trends to Know
1) Inclusion of prescription drug abuse testing. Prescription drugs may be obtained legally as these help manage certain illnesses, but that does not mean that taking them in high doses for reasons other than what is intended is less dangerous. Painkillers, sleeping pills, decongestants and cough syrups numb the senses giving an artificial sense of freedom from pain or discomfort. Psychostimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are also commonly abused to enhance memory and focus. Companies must, therefore, look into these addictions and include prescription drug abuse into their programs.
2) Inclusion of nicotine abuse testing. There are several studies linking nicotine addiction to decrease in productivity, with affected employees leaving work during non-break periods to smoke. Nicotine testing will be helpful to ensure a healthy workforce and to decrease health insurance costs. This, however, is an issue that needs to be addressed extra carefully as it can be very sensitive.
3) Inclusion of alcohol abuse testing. Aside from alcohol breathalyzers and saliva tests that ensure no one had alcohol before or during work, alcohol ETG tests have significantly grown in popularity. It can detect alcohol use as far back as 3 days from sample collection. Like nicotine abuse, though, this has been a topic of several debates revolving around privacy issues and must be considered with caution.
4) Inclusion of steroid abuse testing. A good number of companies have already implemented no-steroid policies. Steroid abuse has been found common in fields requiring physique and performance enhancement, like professional and amateur sports, law enforcement, citizen protection, and construction. One of its serious side effects is increased aggression, which may affect an employee’s relationship with clients and co-workers.
5) Use of hair follicle and oral fluid drug testing methods. Urine drug tests remain to be the most common method, but hair follicle and oral fluid dug tests have recently been getting excellent reception from several industries. Samples for the hair follicle and oral fluid tests are not only easy to collect, but they are also difficult to tamper with. In addition, hair follicle drug tests provide a more detailed analysis, indicating not only a positive drug use but also the frequency of use. A well-built substance testing program can be an employer’s best ally in finding and keeping healthy and productive employees.