OHS Professional | March 2012

 

Alcohol and Drug Testing Tips

Andrew Smith, sales manager for Andatech Corporation, which supplies professional breathalysers as well as urine drug testing kits, notes that it is important for companies and especially OHS professionals to fully understand the difference between being under the influence of alcohol and “hungover”.

“Where an employee may no longer have alcohol in their system they may be under the effects of acetaldehyde poisoning, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism and the cause of many hangover symptoms, according to Smith.

“This can be just as risky to a person’s ability to perform certain tasks but cannot be tested for. Companies should include in their training ways to identify a hangover and include in their policy actions to be taken when an employee is found to have these symptoms,” he says.

Pitfalls of the process Organisations both large and small need to take a holistic approach to workplace alcohol and drug testing, according to Lane. In many cases a workplace drug testing program is considered a “silver bullet” to the question of drug use in workplaces. “This view is shallow and unrealistic,” he says.

“Certainly, organisations with a workplace alcohol and drug testing program in place, that includes a pre-employment medical examination which incorporates a drug screen for potential new employees, is moving in the right direction,” he says. Another challenge faced by organisations and OHS professionals is assessing the scope of uniquely tailored workplace drug and alcohol testing policies.

Smith says companies need to identify the potential hazards associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs in their workplace, assess the risk and develop strategies to control those risks, much in the same way as any other occupational health and safety hazard.

“Though the potential for risk in any situation should never be underestimated, every business is different. Where ongoing testing and strict compliance for all employees may be necessary for some workplaces, others may only need to check the health of a certain few. Any strategy should be tailored to meet the needs of the individual workplace,” says Smith.

OHS Professional Magazine March 2012: Live at https://sia.org.au/downloads/publications/ohs_professional_magazine/ohs-march-2012.pdf