Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace



Photo: Drug Info, Australian Drug Foundation

Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace is essential for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons why workers are tested for drugs or alcohol is because impairment by alcohol or drugs increases the risk of suffering an injury.

Research shows half of all on-the-job incidents occur as a result of employee drug abuse. The OHS Act requires an employer to take reasonable steps to protect workers and others including visitors from workplace hazards, thus the need to identify and control all hazards caused by drug or alcohol impairment.

In cases where the actions of a worker are likely to put others at risk, employers should take the necessary measures to prevent such risks from occurring, for example, drivers, machine operators and people working at height. Below are some of the benefits of drug and alcohol testing in the workplace:

a)     Improves safety

Some tasks pose serious safety risks even to people who are sober. Working at height or operating heavy machinery requires one to be careful and not to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A worker operating a crane at a construction site should not be using drugs. Drug and alcohol testing before a person starts work ensures tasks are performed without putting the lives of fellow workers at risk.

b) Helps improve workers health

Numerous health risks are associated with drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Employers need to ensure workers are randomly screened for drug use and educated on these risks. Employees who understand the health risks of using drugs will not use them even when they are not in the workplace.

c) Workplace stability

Research shows drug and alcohol use affects the ability of workers to complete tasks on time, thus leading to decreased productivity. People who use drugs and alcohol in the workplace are more likely to report to work late and also miss more days of work. These problems can be eliminated by screening your workers for alcohol and drug use, ensuring only those who consistently and efficiently perform their duties are left in your company.

d) Increases productivity

An employee who feels safe while on the job is likely to be more productive than one who is always concerned about their safety. Drug and alcohol testing leads to reduced workplace incidents. A safe working environment motivates workers to become more productive. Improved job performance has been reported in organisations that implement a comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol testing program.

e) Workers’ compensation claims may be denied

A worker who suffers an injury while at work is entitled to workers compensation to cover the cost of treating the injury. A worker who tests positive for drug after an incident is likely to be denied compensation.

2 thoughts on “Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace

  1. I can’t believe that half of all on the job incidents occur as a result of drug abuse. I’ve been in safety for 7 years and only found one instance where drugs were a contributing factor to the work place incident. Where have these numbers come from?

  2. I am a qualified alcohol and drug tester and the Policy at a workplace where I worked was zero for plant operates and all others below 0.05. If caught with over the alcohol level you were stood down for a day without pay and the following day you need to complete another test before work. For drugs the sample was sent off to be confirmed or if you obtained a doctors letter to say the drugs you were prescribed cause the result, you were permitted to return to work.

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