In a recent LinkedIn poll we asked, “At any point in your career, have you ever suspected a colleague of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work?”. Almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they had. And, while the respondents’ demographics spanned different roles and industries, the vast majority of ‘yes’ votes were from HR and Health & Safety professionals in safety-critical sectors including construction, transport and logistics and utility services.
National statistics relating specifically to drug misuse in the workplace are surprisingly scarce and the tendency is to rely on drug use stats based on broad age groups and draw conclusions from those. For example, the latest ONS data suggest that one in five people aged between 16 and 24 years old took drugs in the past year, with 2.6% of the population between 16 and 59 having used cocaine in the same period.
In 2018, Intelligent Fingerprinting commissioned a survey focusing exclusively on drug use in the workplace to determine attitudes towards drug use by colleagues and actions taken when drug use was suspected. The survey suggested that nationally, one in ten employees suspected a colleague of drug misuse, though results varied from region to region and, for London, the figure rose to one in four workers who had suspicions about a co-worker’s drug use. In addition, the survey showed that a fifth of employees took no action if they suspected a colleague of drug use. This, even though 43% of people were worried that working alongside someone under the influence of drugs made their workplace unsafe.
These figures, coupled with reports of increasing use of drugs such as cocaine across all socio-economic groups, provide plenty of food for thought for employers who don’t yet have an active drug and alcohol policy in place.
Drug misuse by employees endangers individual workers, their colleagues and everyone around them. In fact, UKAT research suggests that substance abuse contributes to 40% of workplace accidents, while the annual cost of drug and alcohol misuse to UK businesses has been estimated at around £36 billion. Not surprisingly, drug misuse is particularly an issue where it takes place in safety-critical working environments such as construction, manufacturing, logistics, public transport networks and utilities.
It’s notable from the 2018 research that many employees are reluctant to act when they suspect drug misuse by a colleague, but it’s unclear why this is. Apathy or misjudgement aside, I suspect in many companies it’s because managers are unable to provide proof or evidence that drug misuse has taken place.
Even employers with active drug screening policies are often frustrated by the practical challenges of carrying out testing within their specific workplaces. Operating a traditional drug screening service using urine tests on a construction site or transport depot, for example, is never going to be convenient (excuse the pun). With the pressure on managers to keep their drivers on the road, construction workers on-site and production operatives on the factory floor, the time involved in preparing for and collecting urine or saliva tests – with shy bladders and dry mouth issues to contend with – can also be prohibitive to regular screening. Traditional tests are also unhygienic and unpleasant to handle.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Intelligent Fingerprinting’s 10-minute fingerprint-based drug testing system – thanks to its portability, ease-of-use and non-invasive approach – has generated a great deal of interest amongst HR Managers, Health & Safety Managers and Occupational Health professionals responsible for safety in the workplace. Many companies have switched from traditional urine or saliva-based testing methods to the new fingerprint-based test, including John Hacklings Transport, Keepmoat Homes, VANTEC Europe, Huntingdonshire District Council and ParkerSteel.
With fingerprint drug testing it takes less than a minute to collect fingerprint sweat samples onto the drug screening cartridge and just ten minutes for the portable reader to screen the sample for multiple drugs of abuse simultaneously – cocaine, cannabis, opiates and methamphetamine. It’s an ideal platform for spontaneous workplace drug screening and we know that regular random drug screening, combined with an effective drug and alcohol policy, acts as a strong deterrent to drug use in the workplace.
It can be hard to know where to begin when implementing a drug testing programme for your organisation or reviewing your current approach. We can help with drug policy development or review, identifying and addressing your drug testing challenges, through to comprehensive free product training for all our customers. If you need help to get started, please get in touch and one of our expert team will be very happy to support you.