Drug testing for workers in the modern era became popular only about three decades ago. The US president pushed for it in the late 80s until a law was passed to test federal employees, as well as some contractors. Private business, however, retained their independence on the matter. Many chose to follow suit until it became an expected part of the application process. Right now, about 40% of workers get tested before being hired. Millions are subjected to it every year and the total costs are enormous. The expense is often justified by the improved safety, increased productivity, and reduced incidence of abuse. It would take tremendous discipline to pass a hair follicle drug test. Random testing is best to catch users as they cannot prepare.We examine these three below:
One of the most common arguments for its existence is the need to keep people safe. There are certain jobs wherein the lives of others are at stake. Workers cannot be in a compromised state or else tragic accidents could happen. Drivers are usually cited as an example. Those who are driving a truck to deliver goods across states often travel during the night when the roads are not congested and they can go through faster from one point to another. On the other hand, nighttime driving is a lot riskier than doing it during the day. Taking drugs makes it even more dangerous because of the diminished focus and impaired decision-making.
Workers who are in-charge of heavy machinery also need to be at their best every time report to work. Errors on their part can result in massive property damage or worse. Imagine a construction site where the crane operator has compromised senses because of substance abuse. If it swings just slightly off-course, it may hit other workers or topple existing structures. These will result in large expenses for repairs and hospitalization, among other things. Costly litigation might also ensue. Drug tests can be thought of as a way for companies to reduce risks to their businesses while protecting their people and interests.
Certain types of drugs can adversely affect productivity. This is bad news for employers who want to get the most out of the salaries they pay to their employees. Most are paid for the hours they spend at work so those hours need to be filled with results. A substance abuser may not be able to generate as much as the average individual because of his compromised state. Although he might not be a danger to others, he will not be able to help the company achieve its business goals in the manner he is expected to. If a lot of workers do this, then the collective losses can be significant.
The substance abuse can also result in frequent absences and tardiness. This is unacceptable in a lot of contexts because it isn’t easy to get someone else to cover for you. For example, teachers must be in front of their class at certain hours. Their colleagues may not be always available to take over. Programmers have their own assignments during development which they have to do on their own. They have their own approaches and in-depth knowledge that makes them hard to replace at a moment’s notice. Companies often invest serious money in their training and it would be such a waste if they have to be let go eventually because of attendance or productivity issues.
It is also said that drug testing can help reduce the incidence of abuse by acting as a deterrent. Just the knowledge that they will be tested is enough to make potential candidates stop indulging in their habits and clean up their act. If the job is important to them, then they will do everything to make sure that they pass with flying colors. It would be a shame if they ace the interview and other parts of the recruitment process only to be rejected because of a positive test. Random testing while working at the company has the same effect.
There are critics who say that testing is not as effective as it is made out to be because people will find ways around it if they are determined to do so. Current methods also have lots of flaws such as the limited time period in which drugs can still be detected in samples. Blood and urine samples have very short time-spans. People can temporarily halt their usage, use a toxin rid product, and resume once they have already passed the test. Hair samples are able to retain the traces of the chemicals for much longer.