Drug testing is a challenging issue for both the employers and employees. It can be a sensitive issue in the workplace. Organisations need to follow the best practices of alcohol and drug testing in order to secure a safer work environment. According to the Government’s latest British crime survey, approximately 5% of the working populations in the UK are involved in drug use.

In most companies and industries in the UK, alcohol and drug testing has been made mandatory. For example the maritime and rail industry has made it mandatory for all their employees to satisfy regulatory requirements. Recently more and more industries are recognising the importance of this, as they have grown to understand the risks they may face by not implementing an active drug and alcohol policy. Non-regulated industries are coming to understand that the risk of not testing outweighs the implied costs of doing so. The construction industry have recognised that regular drug and alcohol testing in the workplace can have major benefits, on the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce.

The testing of employees in the workplace might as a result of, requirements of the law, employment, industry regulation or as a result of avoiding drugs or alcohol-related incidents. Employers have been given a mandate by law in the Health and Safety a Work Act 1974 to ensure the provision of a safe working environment for their employees and that includes making sure their employees are in good condition when carrying out their roles; ignorance of this fact is not an excuse. The highest industry standard must be upheld when carrying out the drug and alcohol testing. Experts are aware that incorrect results have great consequences for the company both internally and externally and experts are also aware of the risk that a positive result have on both the person and their livelihood.

There are three main steps to successful, legally defendable drug testing in the workplace and they are:

Create Alcohol and Drug Policy

The first step to ensure defendable drug and alcohol testing is to create a clear drug and alcohol policy. It is very important that this policy is implemented in the workplace and this job be carried out by the HR or occupational health department of the organisation. The senior management and officials are also called-upon to support its implementation in the organisation. It is advisable for the organisation to seek legal advice before the implementation of the alcohol and drug policy in the workplace. The policy should be supportive not punitive for its implementation to be successful, the employers need to focus on creating a safer working environment for their employees and the general public. For a drug and alcohol policy to be considered relevant and successful, it needs to improve health and the safety of all those involved.

Staff Education and Awareness

After the creation of the alcohol and drug policy, the next step is educating the employees and management on the matters about the policy, such as the policy itself, the effects of drugs & alcohol on health and how long these substances are likely to stay in the system.  The employers and managers should be made aware of the types of substances being taken, and the signs and symptoms of their use.

Promote Policy Awareness

The department responsible for the implementation of the policy should communicate with the workforce that testing is likely to occur. This can be on a random basis, for cause (on suspicion), pre employment, or as a follow up to a prior positive drug test. They should also be told the type of testing that would be carried out, the consequences when results are positive and any likely disciplinary action, after a positive result.

Testing Procedures

When employees provide positive test result, and a chain of custody sample needs to be sent to a laboratory for confirmation, it is important to use laboratories with UKAS accreditation. This way, you are sure that the drug and alcohol testing would be conducted in the best way possible. The employer then has the peace of mind knowing that the laboratory adheres to strict testing procedures and gives correct results by providing legally defendable evidence.

Below are important elements a testing company provides when testing drug and alcohol.

Collection Process

There are various way that samples can be collected for the donor, these would normally be; urine, oral fluids, hair samples, breath samples and so on. Companies can either decide to hire a company to visit site and take samples on their behalf, or take samples themselves. We are able to provide this service. We can come to your site and take these samples, or we can train you how to do this. Whichever way companies decide to take samples, they have to ensure that they follow the strict procedures that guide the sample collection process; this will ensure that the testing is legally defendable. In any case, if the sample is positive after the first line test, a second line Chain Of Custody sample should be been sent to the laboratory for further analysis.

Chain of Custody

The chain of custody includes taking careful steps to guarantee that the samples are not tampered with so that they can be legally defendable. They include tamper-evident seals on the specimen containers; laboratory checks on arrival to confirm that chain of custody is intact, a chain of custody form with barcodes that link the specimen to the paperwork; secure packaging to protect it during transit. This process ensures that the results received by the laboratory are accurate and related to the specific sample taken from an individual.

Testing process

Usually the samples collected under strictly controlled conditions are sent to the laboratory where specialist laboratory technicians carry out an in-depth testing on the samples. This is usually called GCMS testing, which involves samples undergoing screening or confirmation testing. The full chain of custody procedure ensures sample integrity for legally defendable testing.

Is Testing Changing Workplaces?

Positive effects are being experienced in the workplace as a result of Drug testing. It has been a welcome development so far across organisations as it encourages productivity in workers and reduces Absenteeism in the workplace. Once the policy is communicated clearly to all involved and properly executed by testing companies, it brings about a positive effect among workers and employers. Drug testing in the workplace has reduced positive drug results in different industries, particularly the rail, maritime and construction sectors.

Successful Testing

To ensure legally defendable drug testing, employers have to make sure that correct and adequate practices are being strictly adhered to. The base of a successful policy involves adequate education and communication that is comprehensible to all involved and also providing a duty-of-care service. By making use of a certified independent service provider, you go a long way in guaranteeing a defendable alcohol and drug testing result.

If you are thinking about setting up your own testing procedures in the workplace and you need help and support to do so, please call our office on 01328 853412.