Taking Steps to Ensure Your Alcohol and Drug Testing Policy is Not Biased

Providing a safe working environment for all employees is the “duty of care” an employer bears as a major responsibility. A major step that can be taken to protect employees from harm is instituting a program of random drug and alcohol testing as one component of a mandatory drug testing policy. Random testing can play an important role in creating a business culture that discourages the use of drugs or alcohol, but the testing policy needs to follow certain guidelines to insure the testing accomplishes its goals and is unable to be used for employee harassment.

How can random testing go awry? Unfortunately an employer can call a drug and alcohol testing program random when in fact employees are not randomly selected. An errant supervisor can use drug testing in a discriminatory manner unless there are clear policies and procedures that keep employee selection truly random. Random testing is in addition to incident and causal testing.

A random testing policy should have the following features to minimise the possibility of bias.

1. The random pool of employees must include all employees without regard to title. In other words, a successful policy will apply equally to all staff.1 This means that executives, managers, supervisors, volunteers, line workers and all other employees are included in the selection pool.

2. At a minimum, the random testing pool of employees will be composed of employees chosen by job function. The job functions selected are those that are specified as safety sensitivity in that an impaired employee presents a particular health and occupational hazard during job performance. For example, miners, drivers or heavy equipment operators would be randomly tested.

3. A random drug and alcohol testing program should include the organisational decision makers in the pool of candidates without regard to title to insure there is no appearance of bias.

4. The organisation can establish a percentage of employees in the pool to be tested during each designated time period.

5. The employer can establish a blanket drug and alcohol testing program in addition to the random testing program so that all employees are tested at some point during the year. This not only gives the employer the right to test but also eliminates a perception of discrimination in determining fitness for work.

The employer needs to test for drug and alcohol use in the workplace to insure worker safety, but this need must be balanced against the desire to preserve employee privacy and dignity. That is a balance that is not always easy to establish.

Workplace drug testing using products like the Medix Integrated Pro-Split Cup or the Alcohol Breath Analyser make random testing programs affordable and easy to manage. Many organizations like the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of the Australian Government recommend blanket testing as “good practice” and more effective than testing only employees performing safety sensitive job functions.2

CMM Technology at http://cmm.com.au/index.php can assist in the selection of the best drug and alcohol testing products for use in your company’s testing program whether it’s blanket testing, random testing or both.


1 DeKort, P. M. (2010). How to Implement a Drug and Alcohol Program in the Workplace (Presentation). Retrieved February 16, 2011, from Safe Work SA: http://www.safework.sa.gov.au/sw2010/presentations/WorkplaceDrug.pdf

2 Civil Aviation Safety Authority. (2011). Instructions for the Use of the Drug and Alcohol Managament Plan (DAMP) Template. Retrieved February 15, 2011, from Australian Government Cival Aviation Safety Authority: http://casa.gov.au/wcmswr/aod/docs/damp_template_instruction_document.pdf

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