For any company to be successful there is the need for the human resource department to take measures to reduce the impact of drug use in the workplace. One of these strategies is conducting random and regular drug checks for the workers in the company. According to the data provided by the department of labour in United States of America, employers suffer about 100 billion dollars in losses from problems associated with drug use at the workplace. The losses are incurred by low productivity of the workers, non-attendance, violence at the workplace, defiance and laziness at the workplace. The employer also in terms of time resource and in compensation of workers from drug related complications. It is also estimated that over 60% of accidents at the workplace are related to drug use.
Drug testing is the examination of biological specimen from the body of a person for the purpose of detecting illicit drugs in the system or the metabolic products of such drugs. The samples analysed include saliva, blood urine and hair samples. The test provides the identity of the drugs abused and the history of drug use. Drug testing in an institution can be done before employment i.e. pre-employment drug screening, randomly on employees and following accidents at the workplace to either confirm or rule out drug use as the primary cause of the accident (Evans, 2004). It is done by the employer,with the consent of the employee or job applicant,to test for drugs and substances that are prohibited by the law in the blood of the employee. The employer employs the services of a drug testing agency. If done properly, a drug test can reveal the use of drugs even months before the administration of the test.
The results from a drug test can be positive or negative. A positive result shows the presence of the drug being tested for. However, the test is usually not fool proof. A positive test result may still be realised following the use of some non-drugs related substances. For instance, the consumption of poppy seeds prior to taking a drug test may give a positive result for opiates. Despite these shortcomings, there are methods for further quantifying rather than qualifying the parameters of the test. This helps to rule out such false positives. The second run of the test is usually called a confirmatory test. On the other hand, a negative result shows the absence of the drug being tested for. The detection of drugs following their use is limited to a short timeframe. However, the metabolic products of the drugs remain in the system for a longer time hence they are ideal for detecting drug use. The best specimen for use in drug testing is the hair sample. This is because minute quantities of the drugs used are deposited on the hair as it grows. The drawback of this method of drug testing is that it is expensive.
Benefits of Drug Testing
The drug testing practice has countless benefits to the company. Administration of drug tests in the pre-employment period assists the company in the shortlisting of the applicants. Many companies have strict policies against illicit drug use. Therefore, a positive test result for a job applicant results in an immediate disqualification. Consequently, the employees who are likely to be nuisances to the company are eliminated even before they are hired. The drug tests are carried out by drug testing companies. The average test cost in the United States is approximately 60 dollars per person. This is a considerably low cost to pay compared to the real cost of having a drug addict for an employee.
Another advantage of drug testing in a company is that it guarantees employee safety.Some specialised jobs are hazardous to carry out. They demand a high level of attentiveness. For instance, a worker at a food outlet works with sharp knives. In the same way a heavy truck driver or a petroleum tanker driver shares the same road with other motorists. In both cases, poor judgment and lack of attention may result in gruesome accidents. Therefore, in order to guarantee the safety of the worker and the other staff working with him or her, it is imperative that the employee abstains from the use of drugs. This ensures that accidents do not occur at the workplace.
In addition to this, drug testing in a company facilitates the adherence of a company to the some laws. The drug-free workplace act is such a law. It dictates that if a company wishes to enter into any contract with the federal government, it should ensure that all its employees are tested for drug use. Once the drug tests are conducted, the employees are issued with the test certificates. The employer also gets a copy of the test results. In an event the employer wants to enter into a contract with the federal government, they will present the test results or the test certificate to prove compliance to the requirements of this law.
Additionally, drug testing in a company promotes the spirit of accountability among workers. The uncertainty on when the next drug testing exercise will be conducted discourages a worker from using a drug. This way the drug testing process acts as a deterrent to drug abuse. It also assists the worker to stay drug free and instils a sense of responsibility in the worker. In addition to this, it assists in pointing out the specific workers who need support with their drug and substance abuse. In the same way, the results can be used by the human resource department to identify problems at the workplace that the employees may not reveal openly. For instance, increased drug use in a company may be attributed to increased pressure or stress at the workplace. Many employees may react to pressure by abusing drugs as an outlet of the pent up tension. Therefore, the drug tests may help to identify the areas that need attention.
Disadvantages of Drug Testing
Despite all the advantages, drug testing in the company is not without its disadvantages. Many people argue that drug testing in a company constitutes a major violation to the privacy of an individual. Some drugs that are usually tested for during the tests are legalised in some states. For instance, the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes is legal in the states of Colorado and Washington after the endorsement in 2012. When a drug test is conducted, the information on marijuana use will be revealed. This violates the privacy of such a worker. Although drug use may not always affect the workers ability to perform his or her duties, the employer will always judge such a worker based on what the worker does at his or her personal time. The consent of the worker should therefore be sought when a drug test needs to be conducted.
In addition to this, the process in which the drug test is conducted may be uncomfortable and invasive to the privacy of the worker. For instance, where a urine sample is to be collected, it is required to be done in the presence of another individual in order to avoid chances of tampering with the results. This is both uncomfortable and infringement of the basic privacy of the individual.
Also, drug tests are usually not failsafe. There is the likelihood of false positive results. This is because, the use of some non-drug related substances may lead to a positive test result for the drugs. For instance, ingestion of poppy seeds in the period prior to the test gives a positive result for opiates. In addition to this, drug residues from secondary sources may deposit on the hair of the employee. For instance, when one shares a room with individual smoking marijuana, traces of the drug will be found on his or her hair too. To avoid this, there is the need to perform confirmatory tests for the drugs. Alternatively, the threshold to deduce drug use should be controlled in such a way that the incidence of the false positives is considerably minimised.
In addition to this, the drug test results are subject to abuse by the employers. The employers in many cases may use the test results to blackmail he employees. It gives the employers excessive control over the workers. The retention of a worker in the firm in most cases depends on the outcome of the test results. Also, the administration of the mandatory drug test elicits hostile response and backlash from the employees. The mandatory nature of the drug test exercise makes such employers unpopular with the employees. As a result, the employees do not treat such employers with respect and they are rebellious to their directives. This considerably lowers the productivity of the employees.
In conclusion, drug testing at the workplace is a splendid approach to the facts regarding to drug and substance use of an employee. Where the employer wants to remain optimally productive and guarantee safety of the employees while at the same time complying with the law, drug testing is paramount. However, when conducting the drug tests, it is imperative that specific standard operating procedures and ethical requirements are met. The drug tests should be conducted for the right reasons and the results should be used responsibly. Once this is achieved, the fundamental rights of the workers will be guaranteed and the safety of the staff in a company will be assured.
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