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Drug testing – Fit for a purpose

The use of drug testing initially in many organisations is based around the health and safety requirements of the organisations. These are targeted at people carrying out safety sensitive operations, but should it go further?

The aim of this article is to look at the various forms of drug testing and delving a little into why an organisation would implement a drug testing policy, what are the objectives, and fit for purpose of the drug testing method to be used.

Workplace drug testing in Australia has advanced significantly in the past few years. We have seen an evolution from what is known as the traditional method of urine drug testing to the state of the art use of saliva or oral fluid testing. Each method has its place with urine giving more historical drug use compared to oral fluid which detects current drug use. For many workplaces, the current drug use is more important as it indicates that an employee may be under the influence of a drug while at work. If they are under the influence, the potential risk that they will cause a safety incident is higher. In addition, the use of drugs in the workplace may have a negative impact on the output from an individual and also on fellow workers who may potentially be put at risk from this behaviour.

When an organisation puts a drug and alcohol policy in place they really need to have clear objectives in mind. By taking the wrong approach, the policy may impact the workforce and potentially create a rift between the employer and the employee. Taking a hard line for the purpose of “cleaning out” drug users may have a negative impact by creating mistrust between both parties and creating resistance to implementation and buy in. However, if the employer takes a consultative approach by working to support the employees in the workplace, there will be greater cohesion between both parties. Oral fluid testing has been shown to be a very supportive process as it tests for recent drug use and is aimed at supporting the employee in the workplace.

Research is key, this ensures the correct program and methods are used. Having an open mind to what each product and method will contribute to the program being put in place is important. Many times a program or product decision is based around economics. What needs to be understood is the value and the cost benefit of the program being put in place. Factors which need to be considered carefully are the time lost due to length of testing, the privacy issues, the safety of the workplace, the impact of an incorrect result and making poor decisions when implementing a testing program.

Every organisation needs to understand the options available and the best way to implement such methods and procedures into their organisation. They need to have an open mind to the products and services in the market place and how they would aid the organisation. The drug testing method and policy developed needs to consider the impact of each method on the organisation’s strategy and how that method will impact the employees working in the business.

In conclusion, fit for purpose decisions need to be considered when developing the strategy and deciding on the products that will be used in the organisation. Clear objectives need to be aligned with the methods and product on the market. Alere has a wide range of products available that meet all aspects of an organisation’s drug testing program from urine to oral fluid via its network of distributors around Australia. From more information please contact Alere on 1800 622 642 or email drugtest@alere.com

Written by: James Wruck (Alere Business Unit Manager – Drug Testing)

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