Workplace drug testing: a health & safety must?
Dr Paul Yates, Business Development Director, Intelligent Fingerprinting
Workplace drug testing is an important health and safety consideration for employers, particularly those operating in safety-critical environments. Almost one in ten UK workers admits to recent drug use,1 and 16% of UK employers suspect employees of being under the influence of drugs.2 Drug use in the workplace puts the well-being of individual employees, their colleagues and the general public at risk, with research suggesting that drugs and alcohol contribute to 26% of workplace accidents and cost the UK some £4 billion every year.3 Naturally, the risks associated with workplace drug use are greatest for those employed in safety-critical environments such as:
- Construction – where operators are responsible for handling industrial plant or machinery such as tower cranes or earth moving equipment
- Transport / Warehousing – fork-lift truck operators or HGV and van delivery drivers
- Public transport – train, bus, tram drivers or even school coach or taxi drivers
An active workplace drug testing policy plays a vital part in helping to identify drug misuse by employees and, beyond the obvious safety aspects, it can have additional benefits for a business and its employees. Absenteeism and compromised productivity can be reduced, while organisations can also take steps to support employees with drug problems to help them get the treatment they need.
However, while drugs of abuse screening is critical in supporting workplace drug and alcohol policies, until now there have been legitimate practical factors limiting the implementation of screening programmes. This is particularly true for safety-critical sectors such as transport, energy generation and construction. Although many workplaces already have company drug policies that mandate random screening of employees, factors such as the potential requirement for gender-specific staff to supervise some types of sample collection and the need for separate prepping and sample collection areas for traditional screening methods such as urine testing, can result in significant inconvenience and costs. Given this, it’s perhaps easy to see why many workplaces find drug screening difficult.
In my role, I speak regularly with health and safety officers from a range of different markets tasked with integrating drug screening into their health and safety operations. They are often frustrated by the practical challenges of implementing an effective policy within their specific workplaces. Operating a traditional drug screening service on a construction site, for example, is fraught with difficulty. Similarly, how do you deal with privacy concerns in a warehouse, transport hub or other busy workplace?
New fingerprint-based drug screening system could simplify workplace drug testing
Thanks to its portability, ease-of-use and non-invasive approach, it’s perhaps no surprise that our new fingerprint-based drug test is already generating interest from health and safety managers and occupational health professionals. With the Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System it takes only a few seconds to collect a fingerprint sample and the system screens for multiple drugs of abuse (amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and opiates) in a single test, with results in under ten minutes. It’s an ideal solution for spontaneous workplace drug screening. See for yourself in our latest video demonstration:
Our technology has the potential to revolutionise drug screening in the workplace and play an effective and positive role supporting health and safety policies. Specifically, our fingerprint drug test could provide organisations with a cost-effective and practical way of delivering more effective drug misuse policies. It has the potential to support the full range of testing required, from pre-employment and random fitness-for-duty testing through to post-accident investigations, while always ensuring respect for employee privacy and dignity.
- 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
- Synergy Health survey: survey of 200 medium to large sized covering approximately 26,000 employees (2014): http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/26589-drugs-in-the-workplace-a-4bn-problem-that-employers-ignore
- Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development research: http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/26589-drugs-in-the-workplace-a-4bn-problem-that-employers-ignore