Drug and Alcohol Assessments of Employees

Physical Health

The rise of drug and alcohol use in the community has led companies to conduct regular testing of employees. Companies have a duty of care to all employees to provide a safe working environment. In some industries an impaired worker can endanger the health and safety of themselves and others around them as well as damage plant and equipment. Some companies have a zero tolerance policy while others will provide assistance to the employee and allow their employment to continue.

Industries with Regular Testing

The majority of testing is conducted in workplaces that have a high risk of injury such as mining and construction. Concentration, coordination and reaction time skills may be diminished in people using drugs and drinking alcohol. Mining companies often have a policy of no tolerance so they risk being dismissed if a test is positive.

But with drug-taking rates high across most sectors of the community now, it’s not just blue-collar workers who are being tested. Some companies that employ white collar workers are conducting drug and alcohol testing of staff to ensure the best results are achieved and to provide a safe workplace for all employees.

Survey Results

A 2015 survey by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) of 2,000 Australian workers found that 40% of people who have worked with a cannabis user thinks the drug reduced their colleague’s motivation and one-third felt their productivity was compromised.

The majority of drug users don’t believe their habit is a problem at work. Only 15% of drug-taking respondents felt their work performance was impacted and 10% felt the quality of their work would improve if they quit.

Best Practice for Testing in the Workplace

A Flinders University report Workplace Drug Testing: Evidence and Issues stated that to have any impact on workplace safety, test programs needed to be based on ‘best practice’ including in part:

  • allowing employee input into the development of the program
  • the right of appeal
  • education and training
  • counselling, treatment and rehabilitation rather than punitive outcomes.

Talking About Drug and Alcohol Use and Education

Companies are improving their communication about drug use in the hope that employees will talk to colleagues or management about their problem or that of a colleague.

Senior Researcher at NCPIC, Dr Peter Gates said,“There is a vast range of services available for people who use drugs, and making sure employees feel they are able to ask for help is a crucial part of developing a healthy and productive workforce…Having access to strong assistance programs to support employees who may be underperforming due to drug use is also very important.”

Psycho-education for employees in relation to drug and alcohol use and it’s relationship with fitness for work requirements is an integral part of allowing the space for discussion.

Assessments for Employees Testing Positive

Employees found positive for drugs or alcohol may need a management plan. PeopleSense completes assessments of employees in order to prepare the management plan. The assessment and plan can help decide when an employee is physically and psychologically fit to return to work and include assistance to reduce the risk of relapse. In addition, PeopleSense provide fitness for work training which can be conducted in the workplace.

If your company needs advice or assistance with developing a drug policy or conducting drug and alcohol assessments and management plans, or fitness for work training and eduction contact PeopleSense on 1300 307 912.