Why is Drug Testing Important in the Workplace?

Drug testing in your workplace. How does this sound? This sentence sounds pretty absurd and scary, doesn’t it? Well, according to many surveys that occurred in numerous companies, industries and workplaces around the world, there are several benefits of these testing methods. Benefits not only for the employers, but for the employees too.

Still, there is a lot of stigma around drug testing, considering the fact that people will hardly admit they are under influence at work, or that they should be tested, along with their colleagues, even if they don’t consume any substances.

Thanks to the fact that drug testing at work is not something the employees are happy about, and some other factors such as financial costs and the complexity of establishing a drug testing policy – performing drug testing in the workplace is not something that employers have at the top of their to-do list. This leads us to a simple question: should this change in the future?

The reality is different from what you’d expect

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Naturally, you wouldn’t expect to be surrounded by people who do drugs. Especially not in your workplace. However, statistics show that the vast majority of accidents or other issues that occur at work, are somehow correlated with drug abuse. This leads to a simple conclusion – there has to be a way to prevent this. Not only the companies’ CEOs and other leaders are more than surprised when presented with the high percentage of drug abuse in tests that took place in the workplace, but unless you establish a regular testing routine, you’re hardly gonna be able to discover who are the exact employees who use drugs on a daily basis.

In 2014, the exact percentage of drug and alcohol abuse was estimated to be shocking 60% of accidents that occurred at work! However, in 2022 these numbers are lower, since the companies have a different policy that is open to random drug testing in the workplace and other forms of drug testing. Almost half of all US companies use these tests and invest enormous amounts of money in order to cope with the possible problems.

Do drug testing procedures have any purpose at all?

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After thorough analysis, employers concluded that drug testing at work has multiple benefits and certainly – a deeper purpose. These tests are designed to help prevent workplace accidents, which is their main purpose. This is especially important in cases of safety-sensitive jobs, where the drug influence on employees could have serious health consequences. It’s been proven that drug testing significantly reduces the number of accidents in the workplace, which proves that this process is indeed a good safety measure. In some cases, drugs or alcohol even led to working deaths, which indicates that there is a risk for both drug users and their colleagues.

But it’s not only about the accidents. Employees who work under influence are oftentimes less productive, and their overall performance that results in poor quality outcome is something that costs their employer big money. This is why companies need to test their workers, in order to improve their productivity and help their employees improve their quality of life.

It’s important to mention the legal benefits – since random drug testing protects the companies from potential legal liability, because it would mean that the employer didn’t succeed in making and maintaining a safe working environment for their people.

A safe working environment is not limited to only buildings

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A truck driver’s working environment is the roads all over the world. This includes enormous amounts of people who are not their colleagues, but random drivers on the highways and streets. Now imagine what it would mean if they were under the influence while driving the vehicles that are so big? A lot of people who are completely innocent and who have nothing to do with truck drivers, could potentially be at risk. This includes every single passenger, elderly, kids, babies, teenagers. The purpose here would be to protect the general public.

Only after you put it like this, you can start understanding the importance and the benefits of random drug testing at work as well as other types of drug testing. Now forget about the truck driver and imagine a pilot who is navigating your plane, a surgeon who is operating on someone you care about, or a health worker whose job is to deliver your baby – all of these professionals have a high amount of responsibility, which makes the need for drug testing even higher. This could also prevent or stop people from using any substances if they are just experimenting with drugs or alcohol or they are using it only occasionally.

When should employees get tested?

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According to Health Street, there are numerous situations in which drug testing needs to be conducted in the workplace. We’ve already mentioned the random ones, which are easy to understand. They are performed at different times, with no announcement and it is done by arbitrarily picking on random numbers of people, in order to get accurate information. On the contrary, there are scheduled tests that can be periodic, follow-up or post-rehab.

Testing that is done before someone gets a job is called pre-employment drug testing and it’s vital for determining if someone is an individual that would potentially become a risk for the company. The only problem with this is the fact that potential employees can prepare for the testing by staying clean a couple of days beforehand. It’s important to mention the post-accident testing, since it helps determine if the accident was caused by drug or alcohol abuse, or if it could happen again. It also helps employers determine whether the specific employee should go back to work, and when is the right time to do so.

Final thoughts

Creating a healthy, drug-free working environment is everyone’s number one priority. It is essential for both employees and employers to implement a drug testing policy, because it may help prevent accidents, fatalities or simply some factors that might affect the employees’ job performance or their employers’ business. However, workers may see drug testing as something that violates their privacy, and while it is accurate, there still are ways to prepare for the testing. On the other hand, testing may threaten to become counterproductive, since employees may feel like you don’t trust them, which can affect their motivation and productivity. It’s all about weighing your company’s needs, requirements and benefits testing would provide you with.