Workplace Drug Testing
Why is Drug Testing required in the Workplace?
Drug testing is one way you can protect your workplace from the negative effects of alcohol and drug abuse. A drug-testing program can deter people from coming to work unfit for duty and also discourage alcohol and other drug abusers from joining your organization in the first place.
Some employers believe that a drug-free workplace program and drug testing are one and the same. However, drug testing is only one element of a program. Drug testing may be appropriate for some organizations and not others. In some cases drug testing is required; in others, it is optional. When Drug testing is optional, the decision about whether or not to test will depend on a variety of factors such as the cost, appropriateness, and feasibility.
When considering a drug-testing program, the fist question to ask is, “Am I required to drug test?” If not, then ask, “Are there other reasons I should consider drug testing?” Below are some of the most frequent reasons employers give for having a drug-testing program.
What About Legal Challenges?
Many states have drug-testing laws that determine what an employer can and cannot do. Resources are available to help you find out if there are any state drug testing laws you must comply with. Avoid legal problems by using procedures that are clear, fair, consistent, and documented in a written policy. Because employment decisions based on a test result can be contested, it will be to your advantage to have a detailed policy and to understand the protections that are available to you.
Drug Testing Companies
Companies may test for illegal drugs because the test is not considered a medical exam. In fact, drug testing has become the norm in corporate America during the 1990's. According to the American Management Association (AMA), random drug testing has increased 1,200 percent since 1987 among the companies surveyed (DeLancey, 1995). Now, 80 percent of these companies test employees or new hires for illegal drug use (Greenberg, 1996). Testing is an important aspect of a company drug policy. Several issues must be addressed before designing a testing program, including:
Who to test is a big question that must be answered with respect to worker morale and legality. Everyone must be involved in the testing program. A policy to test everyone inside the company as well as prospective new hires means that workers won't view the policy as aimed at them in particular. All top management must be included to avoid legal ramifications. If everyone must be tested then discrimination cannot be used as an excuse of any employee who fails a test. If tests are only offered to new hires then present employees have no incentive to remain drug-free. Drug testing alone is the best deterrent.
What drugs to test for is the next question that needs to be addressed. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advises that companies test for their "HHS five," which include Marijuana, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Opiates, and PCP (DeLancey, 1995). Because these are the illegal drugs that the government tests for, the private sector has followed suit and these have become the standard minimum. Many other illegal drugs as well as many prescription drugs that are typically abused can be tested for. The scope of testing should be tailored to each company depending on the level of abuse perceived in the company. Drug testing has been accurate because of testing thresholds. Trace amounts of substances don't result in a positive test result because certain combinations of legal substances can appear as illegal drugs. This is discussed in more detail in a later section.
How to test really depends on the type of test needed. There are six tests that can be utilized by the company each with positive and negative aspects.
When to test is the final question that must be asked. Drug tests cost $20 to $30 per test so proper testing methods will keep costs down while still producing the desired results. There are five different times or methods of timing for drug tests. Companies use one of these five methods or a combination that will get their goal of a drug-free workplace accomplished within the cost they can afford.
Effects of Employee Drug Abuse
The effects of employee drug abuse can be classified into three different categories:
Poor job performance Increased absenteeism and Poor interpersonal relationships on the job. Poor job performance includes an increase in irregular work habits and mistakes, poor judgement, missed deadlines, secretive behavior, difficulty recalling instructions, disciplinary problems, and alternating periods of high and low productivity. Increased absenteeism involves morning tardiness, unauthorized absences and leaving work early. Arguments with co-workers and complaints from customers also become more common. (Garcia, 1996)
If an employee has a substance currently in their system, several signs may be present. Performance problems, as has been mentioned earlier, would include failure to follow instructions, working at an inappropriate pace, damaging parts, making inaccurate calculations, and on-the-job absenteeism. Dilated or constricted pupils, redness in the eyes, blurred vision or excessive sweating are all physical signs of current use. Lack of coordination, mood swings, excessive crying, euphoria, anger, and laughter are also signs of intoxication. (Kelemen, 1995)
There is a considerable difference between an employee who has come to work intoxicated once or twice and the employee who has developed a pattern over a period of days or months. This would be considered an addiction. There are different stages of addiction that should be identified. The first stage is considered the experimentation stage. The substance is usually used for special occasions and the tolerance is still quite low. This often leads to regular use where the user has developed a preoccupation with the substance. This is the stage where weight gain or loss may occur, the employee may likely be irritable, blame others for problems, overreact to criticisms and their performance continues to deteriorate. The stage of dependency occurs when the individual uses not to feel good but to avoid feeling terrible. Their job performance is definitely damaged at this point. (Kelemen, 1995)
The Costs of Not Implementing Employee Drug Abuse
Workplace drug testing is an essential demand reduction component of a prevention program because it:
Presently, urine is the only specimen collected for Federally regulated Workplace drug testing programs and for most private sector programs. Urine drug testing in the Federally regulated Workplace is currently recognized as the "Gold Standard" because of its proven accuracy, reliability, and fairness. This "Gold Standard" status is based on:
There are a number of different biological specimens that can be collected and tested for drugs, although urine is the only specimen collected for Federally regulated Workplace drug testing programs and for private sector programs that use the Federal standards. Testing hair specimens is becoming more common in some unregulated, private sector programs. Oral fluids and sweat are also used in some testing programs and non-instrumented, on-site test devices are available for screening of both urine and oral fluids. Although the technologies of hair, oral fluids, sweat and non-instrumented, on-site drug testing are not currently approved for use in Federally regulated Workplaces, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through its Division of Workplace Programs and Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB), is actively appraising, in partnership with industry, the eligibility of these other biological specimens and devices.
After it became usual practice for federal employees to go through drug testing, states started following suit. Presently, thirty two states have enacted employment alcohol and drug testing laws and while most are very primitive in requirements how an employee may undergo drug testing, could be also many variations. For example, some of these drugs screening law protect the employees from workplace drug testing while another protect and even encourage employers to conduct employee drug testing. Some states give workers compensation premium discounts to employers who adopt drug free workplace program while other states remain neutral or even opposed to employer
When and How to Intervene
When a teenager's or employee’s performance begins to deteriorate for whatever reason, the parent / supervisor has the right and responsibility to intervene. The supervisor does not need to be an expert on alcohol and other drugs to intervene appropriately if substance abuse is suspected; the intervention should be focused on the performance problem.
Principles of Intervention
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