Everything in life has risks and rewards, and workforce testing for drugs and alcohol is no different. The rewards of a substance free workplace include a lowered risk of accidents and injuries, higher productivity, and reduced health costs. The maximum rewards are only derived when the AOD program is managed correctly and legally. The risks, on the other hand, flow from failures to act. For example, management fails to develop a healthy workplace culture or the on site drug testing schedule is not followed. What are the other common drug testing mistakes that can quickly get employers in trouble?
Staying Off Shaky Ground
The first two common mistakes cover a broad area. First, the failure to develop a culture that discourages substance use and encourages ethical behaviour can raise the risk employees will use drugs and alcohol. There should be a positive culture that engages everyone in the organisation in the effort to keep drugs and alcohol out of the workplace. A poor workplace culture contributes to worker health problems like alcoholism and drug addiction.1 Developing a substance free culture has to start in the executive suite, flow down through the organisation and be regularly reinforced through messaging, employee resource groups, and worker training and development.
The second broad mistake is failing to have a written drug and alcohol testing policy. A corollary is failing to have a policy that meets federal and state or territory laws. Without a policy, employers stand on shaky legal ground in terms of enforcing a substance free workplace. In addition, the policy provides the consistency in the message delivered to employees and the responses should employees test positive to drugs.
List of Common Failures
Other common mistakes include the following:
- Failing to follow the policy and procedures that were put in place
- Using a company that is not AS4308 & AS4760 accredited for drug and alcohol testing
- Failing to train managers in proper responses after developing suspicion an employee is using drugs
- Failing to train employees on the policy whilst expecting compliance
- Taking action on the first non-negative onsite drug testing results without obtaining confirmatory testing at an accredited laboratory
- Not maintaining proper documentation that indicates the chain of custody for the sample
- Breaching drug and alcohol testing confidentiality
- Treating certain employees inconsistently, i.e. never test, test more frequently, ignore positive results, etc.
Small mistakes can lead to major employer problems. For example, The Australian Standard requires that certain protocols be followed concerning sample handling when there is a non-negative test result. If the employer fails to follow the Australian Standard, an employee is likely to claim the employer cannot “prove” anything (and is right).
Tell Me Again…
The drug and alcohol program needs the same attention to detail as other critical programs like compensation or job training. Workers should be thoroughly trained on the AOD policies and procedures. It is also just as important to share information that helps employees cope with workplace conditions and situations without turning to drugs or alcohol. The training has to be ongoing too. One more common mistake employers make is believing that telling a worker once, at the time of hiring, that drugs and alcohol are not allowed is all the training needed.2
Mistakes in D&A programs do count. To help employers avoid critical mistakes, CMM Technology supplies them with quality saliva testing, urine testing, and alcohol testing supplies. In addition, CMM Technology has the appropriate documentation that simplifies the recording process whilst assisting employers with meeting legal requirements.
- Australian Institute of Employment Rights. (2009). Preventative Health and Workplace Culture. Retrieved May 27, 2011, from Australian Institute of Employment Rights: http://bit.ly/R2EJ8n.
- Ken Pidd, Ann Roche & Michael White. (2011, October). Workplace Drug and Alochol Testing. Retrieved from NCETA and Flinders University: http://bit.ly/1rF47wr.