Workplace Testing for Drug & Alcohol Misuse

Drug testing in some safety-critical industries are an important procedure to ensure safety however, it is not always the best solution as implementing it can create mistrust if not managed correctly. There are many factors to consider such as corporate drinking culture for example. Not to mention obtaining consent, legislation and the law. 

Drug testing can be difficult as many substances stay in the body for long periods and a positive result doesn’t always indicate that someone has misused drugs in the workplace or indeed is even currently under the influence however, if your industry is a safety-critical one or you employ for safety-critical roles, you ought to consider integrating compulsory/random drug and alcohol testing into your organisational policy on drugs and alcohol.

The term “Safety critical work” is defined as “Where the ill-health of an individual may compromise their ability to undertake a task that is safety critical, thereby posing a significant risk to the health and safety of others” (CBH, 2015).

Safety critical work” commonly involve tasks such as operating heavy machinery, driving a vehicle or working at heights to name but just a few. 

tests for drug and alcohol misuse

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Drug & Alcohol Testing

If you do want to make drug and alcohol testing a part of your policy, drug and alcohol testing kits are widely available from specialists online. There are several methods that drugs can be detected which will usually include:

  • Multi Drug testing cups (urine or saliva)
  • Digital breathalyser and mouthpieces
  • Alcohol strip detectors (single use)
  • Blood Testing
  • Hair strand testing

Testing and screening methods can detect the use of most drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and most prescription drugs that are misused however, each method has its advantages as well as its limitations, so it is absolutely necessary to understand what these limitations are to ensure that the method of screening that you choose is the most suitable for your organisational needs.

Aside from detection technology, managers can be trained to use visual assessment measures to detect levels of intoxication and impairment. The police force often will often use a field impairment test which includes five assessment measures:

Drug & Alcohol Test Types:

Pupil Measure Test

Looks at the size of the pupil, the pupil condition, and reaction to light. Some substances are known to cause pupils to shrink or enlarge and this can be checked against a card to indicate what pupil size is normal.

Romberg Test

This involves standing still, tilting the head back and counting to 30 seconds to test balance and judgement of time which can be impaired by many substances.

Walk and Turn Test

 Involves walking along a straight-line stepping heel to toe may indicate impairment if someone stumbles or steps off the line.

One Leg Stand Test

Involves standing on one leg whilst counting out loud evaluates balance which if intoxicated may sway or lose balance.

Finger To Nose

Involves tilting head back and with arms stretch out raising the arm to touch the tip of the nose with the index finger which assesses coordination which some substances can throw off.

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