Drug testing in the workplace can have numerous benefits for both the employer and employees. According to the The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) drug testing can improve workplace safety, improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, decrease turnover, reduce employer risk and lower incidences of workers’ compensation claims.
To enjoy these benefits, an employer needs to have an effective drug testing program. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Two main issues prevent employees from enjoying the benefits of drug testing. As such, if you intend to enjoy the benefits of drug testing in the work place, you need to tackle these two issues:
The first is the absence of a drug testing program. A 2011 poll carried out by SHRM found that 43% of employers (publicly owned, for-profit organizations) do not carry out any form of drug testing. Most such employers reported that they didn’t think drug testing was important. Others thought it was illegal, an invasion of privacy or that it would arouse resentment from employees.
The simple way to deal with this issue is to institute a drug testing program. The first thing you need is a clear drug testing policy. This should state when, for what purpose and on whom drug tests will be carried out. Explain this policy clearly to your employees, and also explain the benefits of drug testing. Let everyone who works for you understand that at one time or another, they may be tested for drugs.
Once you have a policy, commence carrying out routine testing. You can carry out the drug tests at three levels. First, during pre-employment screening. Secondly, periodically on all employees – as part of a continuous drug-free assurance drive. Finally, on specific employees whose behavior raises suspicion of being intoxicated.
The second issue employers face is haphazard drug testing. This is basically implementing a program which fails to detect existing drugs in an employee’s body. This is usually because some employees can manage to cheat the program. One of the most common tricks used is by providing fake urine samples. Synthetic urine is now commonly sold in stores and online. Such cheating can actually undermine your drug testing efforts.
There are two ways of tackling such cheating. The first is to hire a competent lab to carry out the drug tests. Most good labs can easily identify synthetic urine samples. Most also know other tricks which are used to cheat drug tests, and have measures against them.
The second (and most effective) approach is through random drug testing. Instead of having a fixed testing routine, carry out the tests randomly. Drug cheats usually need to prepare, when you catch them unawares, you’ll most likely catch them off-guard.
One construction company used random testing to catch cheats. They announced a drugs test in advance, and many employees brought in fake urine samples. The samples of course tested negative for drugs. The cheats thought they were safe. However, the company brought back medics after 24 hours to collect samples from those who had been identified as having supplied fake urine. Between 98 to 99% of the cheats who’d tested negative only 24 hours before now tested positive.
The bottom line is that drug testing can have tremendous benefits for your employees, clients and even yourself. Conversely, failing to carry out drug testing can expose you to unnecessary risks. To maximize its benefits; you need to tackle the two major issues with drug testing i.e. the absence of a program and the ineffectiveness of a program. Basically, if you don’t have a drug testing program, then institute one. If you have a program, make sure it is working as effectively as possible.