06/03/2019

Simplifying drug testing for construction firms

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Simplifying drug testing for construction firms

By Darren Hamshaw, Intelligent Fingerprinting

Darren Hamshaw joined our commercial team last year, after more than 15 years with the Forensic Science Service helping police forces develop forensic science strategies and supporting high profile criminal investigations. Darren also worked previously for our independent testing laboratory partner LGC.

Six months into his new commercial role, Darren reports on how the construction market is reacting to our innovative, fingerprint-based Drug Screening System, and also highlights some of the features and capabilities that are resonating with UK organisations.

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According to the latest EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction) country drug report, cannabis use among young UK adults (15-34) was 11.5% in 2018, while cocaine usage in the same group was at 4%. That’s not the highest usage rate in Europe, but it does show just how widespread drug misuse is and raises concerns when it comes to health and safety in the workplace.

EMCDDA also reports[1] that almost 1 in 10 UK workers admits to recent drug use. The reality of the situation, however, was brought home when I recently visited a construction business and the aroma of cannabis was clearly detectable outside in the yard. Interestingly, the firm in question didn’t feel it had an issue with drug misuse in the workplace!

Drug testing clearly has a role to play in discouraging and identifying drug use amongst employees, particularly as tackling drug misuse is an important employer requirement in order to maintain a safe workplace. Since joining Intelligent Fingerprinting I’ve found that this is particularly the case in the construction sector, where any kind of employee impairment is worrying – not just for staff, but also for a firm’s customers and the wider general public. In a high-risk environment such as the construction business, there’s clearly a requirement for firms to deliver on their corporate responsibility obligations. There are also potentially serious consequences for failing to do this, with the Misuse of Drugs Act making it an offence for managers to knowingly allow the taking of drugs on workplace premises.

Because fingerprint drug testing is quick and easy to deploy – unlike traditional urine or saliva-based tests that can be invasive, time-consuming and undignified for both testers and employees alike – our new approach is certainly attracting attention from construction businesses.  And because our portable drug screening system supports all forms of employee drug testing – from pre-employment screens and random drug tests to post-accident investigations – construction firms are finding that fingerprint-based drug tests provide a cost-effective and practical way of supporting their health and safety initiatives and enabling their drug misuse policies.

One forward-thinking organisation that’s already taking advantage of fingerprint drug testing is the Alandale Group, which provides a wide range of support services to the construction industry. Alandale is using the solution for random testing of its 500-strong workforce to proactively enforce its drug usage policy, ensure a safe working environment and deliver a high standard of health and safety. The firm previously used a urine-based drug testing method and has found that its employees are much happier to provide fingerprint samples for testing as the approach is more hygienic and dignified. Thanks to the simple sample collection process and with results available in just minutes, Alandale has also found that they’ve been able to reduce the amount of time required to carry out each test.

Supporting workplace drug policies with fingerprint-based tests

Like other workplace drug testing organisations, construction firms have to think carefully about selecting the drug test method that best meets the requirements set out in their drug policy. For example, while some employers have a zero-tolerance approach towards drug taking by employees at any time, other companies consider their employees’ leisure activities their own business, so long as they are fit for duty when they arrive at work.  However, different drug testing methods provide different ‘windows of detection’, so employers need to choose the best approach to support their drug misuse policy.  Some methods will indicate very recent drug use – for example just before an employee starts their shift –  while others will detect use several days ago – such as at the weekend – even though the employee is no longer under the influence of the drug when they come to work.

Urine-based tests offer a longer window of detection, which means an employee could screen positive and possibly be suspended from work as a result of drug use a few days earlier, despite being fit for duty at the time of the test. Of course, any positive screening result should always be verified with a laboratory confirmation test.

In contrast, fingerprint-based testing, with its shorter window of detection, is proving particularly helpful for drug testing in the construction sector. It gives firms a rapid yet dignified way of identifying potential employee drug use in the period immediately prior to their working shift, helping them to meet their Health and Safety at Work obligations while also supporting their duty of care towards employees.

As Alandale has found, fingerprint-based testing – with its quick sample collection and initial results available in just ten minutes – is seen as a faster and more convenient drug testing approach that can be used to support a healthier workplace.  To learn more about how the solution could work for your construction firm, please contact us.

[1] United Kingdom drug situation: annual report to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) 2012. Department of Health.  http://www.cph.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/23779-FOCAL-POINT-REPORT-2012-B5.pdf

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