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Addressing employee concerns on drug and alcohol testing

Drug and alcohol testing among employees

Australia’s relatively liberal stance about substance use has historically meant less focus on workplace testing compared to regions like Europe and North America.

However, this is changing rapidly as more businesses realise the risks associated with employees potentially coming to work under the influence.

While some employees may see their off-duty activities as their own business, concerns about safety and productivity necessitate a closer look at implementing such testing.

The key to implementing substance testing measures without causing unnecessary alarm is to approach the implementation with transparency and an emphasis on employee wellbeing, making it clear that the intent is to protect both employees and the business as a whole.

Saliva or urine drug testing?

When it comes to workplace drug testing, two of the most common methods are saliva and urine testing. Each method has its own advantages and considerations, making it important to choose the one that best fits your company’s needs and regulatory requirements.

Saliva drug testing

Also known as oral fluid testing, this method involves collecting a saliva sample using a mouth swab. It is non-invasive and convenient, making it easy to administer in various settings without the need for special facilities.

It is particularly effective at detecting recent drug use, typically within the past 24 to 48 hours, which is ideal for determining if an employee is currently under the influence.

Pros and cons of saliva drug testing

  • Non-Invasive: Easy and non-intrusive. No special facilities are needed.
  • Recent Use Detection: Identifies recent drug use (within 24-48 hours), ideal for detecting current impairment.
  • Tamper-Resistant: Harder to tamper with, ensuring reliable results.
  • Short Detection Window: Only detects recent substance use.
  • Limited Scope: Less effective for detecting certain drugs compared to urine tests.

LEARN MORE: Why Mining Companies Are Turning To Saliva Drug Testing

Urine drug testing

Urine drug testing involves collecting and analysing a urine sample for drugs or their metabolites. It is widely accepted in workplace drug testing programs and is often required for regulatory compliance.

However, the collection process can be invasive and requires specific facilities to maintain privacy and sample integrity, and there is a higher risk of sample adulteration. 

Pros and cons of urine drug testing

  • Longer Detection Window: Urine tests can detect drug use over a longer period, typically from a few days up to several weeks.
  • Comprehensive Drug Panel: Urine tests are capable of detecting a wide range of drugs, providing a comprehensive overview of an individual’s drug use history.
  • Widely Accepted and Regulated: Urine testing is the most commonly used method in workplace drug testing programs.
  • Invasive Collection Process: Collecting a urine sample can be considered more invasive and may require specific facilities to ensure privacy and integrity of the sample.
  • Higher Risk of Tampering: There is a greater potential for sample substitution, which can affect the accuracy of the results.

LEARN MORE: How Does a Urine Drug Test Kit Work?

When to conduct testing?

Understanding when to conduct drug and alcohol testing is crucial for maintaining a safe and compliant workplace. Effective testing schedules ensure that potential substance abuse issues are identified and addressed promptly.

Recommended testing frequency will differ based on your business industry and ownership/leadership’s preferences and risk tolerance. Regular testing, when supported by an Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Policy, is an important tool to maintain a safe and efficient workplace.

SCHEDULE NOW: Book a free AOD Policy consultation with Andatech

Comprehensive workforce testing

This method of testing involves the entire workforce being tested at a specific time which can be done randomly or be announced ahead of time. As the entire workforce is tested at the same time, all employees are treated equally. It may be difficult, however, to discreetly handle failed testing when the entire workforce is aware of the testing event.

Pre-employment testing

Pre-employment testing is conducted before finalising a job offer to ensure that potential employees do not have a history of substance abuse. This helps maintain a drug-free workplace right from the start. It’s particularly common in high-risk industries involving heavy machinery, driving company vehicles, managing money, and interacting with minors.

Random testing

Random testing can be conducted throughout the year to deter ongoing substance abuse among employees. Carrying out these tests unpredictably prevents employees from anticipating and circumventing them, improving adherence to drug policies.

Suspicion/Incident-based testing

Suspicion/incident-based testing is carried out when there is reasonable cause to suspect substance abuse or after a workplace incident. This approach helps identify and address potential drug or alcohol issues promptly.

Common employee concerns

Introducing a drug and alcohol testing policy can be daunting to employees and can also raise a number of concerns that can create anxiety and resistance, impacting morale and trust within the team.

The key to managing expectations and building employee trust and understanding is to ensure transparency to help them understand the necessity and benefits of drug testing. Common concerns associated with workplace drug testing include:

  • Privacy Challenges: While employees may view drug testing as an invasion of personal privacy, employers are bound by strict confidentiality and privacy regulations. These ensure that the testing process respects personal boundaries and that all information is handled with sensitivity.
  • Fear of Job Loss: Employees often fear that a positive drug test could result in immediate job loss. Consequences for failed tests differ from business to business. However, there is an increasing movement towards supporting employees who may be struggling with substance use issues. If your company offers support services and return to work protocols, communicating about them openly may mitigate these concerns.
  • False Positives: While employees may worry about the accuracy of drug tests and the risk of false positives, modern testing methods are highly reliable. Initial positive results are typically followed by confirmatory tests, ensuring a high level of accuracy and minimising the chances of false positives.
  • Discrimination Concerns: Concerns about discrimination or biased treatment arising from drug testing can be put to rest by knowing that alcohol and drug testing policies must comply with anti-discrimination laws. This ensures that all employees are treated fairly and equally in the testing process.


While drug and alcohol testing in the workplace may initially cause anxiety, many safeguards exist to protect employees. From privacy regulations to accurate testing methods and fair policy application, the system is designed to balance workplace safety with employee rights.

A supportive approach to drug and alcohol issues, focusing on education, assistance, and rehabilitation rather than immediate discipline, fosters trust and boosts morale. This strategy creates a more positive work environment, demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being, and contributes to a safer, fairer, and more supportive workplace.

Browse through Andatech's wide range of alcohol breathalysers and drug testing kits to find the right unit to fit your organisation.