Debunking the Claims that Alcohol and Drug Testing is Too Expensive

One of the claims used to strengthen arguments against workplace alcohol and drug testing implementation is that it’s too expensive. This is frequently the last almost desperate attempt to convince an employer that work place drug testing program results are not justified by the expense of the program itself. This argument is then bolstered with claims that an employee safety education program is adequate and will not raise privacy issues.

When you consider all of the costs associated with workplace alcohol and drug use it does not take long to debunk the idea that paying for an in-house program is more expensive than the potential costs associated with the risks. Following are some of the statistics:

  • It is estimated that 300,000 Australian workers abuse alcohol and/or drugs1
  • Each of the 300,000 present a possibility of workplace injury leading to worker compensation claims1
  • 1 out of every 10 employees drink frequently at short term risky or high risk levels2
  • Frequent drinkers (weekly) are 6 times more likely to show up at work under the influence of alcohol and 19 times more likely to miss a workday within the last 3 months and the illness is due to alcohol abuse2
  • 1 out of 5 employees have reported being abused or scared by a person on drugs or alcohol with up to 17% of the occurrences happening in the workplace2
  • 10% of all industrial accidents involve alcohol3
  • 2.5% of workers go to work while still under the influence of illicit drugs$
  • 47.4% of employees who abuse drugs missed one or more days of work in the previous 3 months due to being sick or injured4

Each of these statistics has a dollar figure attached in real terms. The estimates run into the billions of dollars with employers bearing the costs of:

  1. Lower on-the-job productivity
  2. Increased absenteeism
  3. Increased employee turnover
  4. Higher amounts of workers compensation claims
  5. Higher health care claims
  6. Loss of skilled workers due to termination, illness or death
  7. Increased rates of employee theft

There are also costs that may not be as immediately obvious as some. For example, an employer has a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace. If there is no alcohol and drug testing program and an employee is injured as a result of someone using illicit substances, the employer can be found to have breached the duty of care.2

In tort law, the duty of care means the employer is required to act with reasonable care and watchfulness given a certain set of circumstances. Keeping in mind the statistics just mentioned, a reasonable employer would be required to minimise the health and safety risks with a testing program. Failing to meet the duty of care can lead to lawsuits for negligence, and that can cost thousands or even millions of dollars.

When looking at the expense of implementing a testing program, it’s important to consider much more than the cost of testing equipment sold by alcohol drug testing equipment suppliers in Australia like CMM Technology at Program management expenses, testing equipment and record keeping costs are far less than the cost of one major accident or worker death related to drug or alcohol use and the ongoing costs of lost productivity. That is really what alcohol and drug testing programs are really about – keeping workers alive, uninjured and productive.


1Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (2007). Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace. ACCI Review , 144.

2K. Pidd, JG Berry, JE Harrison, AM Roche, TR Discoll, & RS Newson. Alcohol and Work: Patterns of use, workplace culture and safety. Injury Research and Statistics Series. Adelaide: AIHW: AIHW cat no. INJCAT 82.

3NCETA. (2011). Factsheet 1 Alcohol and Work. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from NCETA:

4Petra Bywood, Ken Pidd & Ann Roche. (2011). Information & Data Sheet 5 – Illicit Drugs in the Australian Workforce: Prevalence and Patterns of Use . Retrieved March 23, 2011, from NCETA:

5Department of Commerce. (2011). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Government of Western Australia: should there be a policy on alcohol

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