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Alcohol and drugs in the workplace. How to act in this situation?


Addressing the use of substances of abuse in workers involves multiple obstacles, which are not easy to manage.  It is clear that if a worker uses drugs more or less regularly, even outside of working hours, it will end up affecting the workplace.

According to various studies, workers who consume alcohol and other drugs:

  • They present absenteeism 2 to 3 times higher
  • Sick leave has a cost 3 times higher
  • 20-25% of workplace accidents occur in workers who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

LEGAL TREATMENT: PREVENTION AND DETECTION

Actions at the level of the Prevention Law and Regulation of Prevention Services

alcohol and drugs testing


At the level of the prevention law, article 22 regulates Individual Health Surveillance.

This Health Surveillance must be oriented to the Specific Risks of the workplace to detect, whenever possible, damage to health early. These assessed risks are those indicated in the corresponding Workplace Health and SafetyAssessment.

This Health Surveillance is voluntary in general, requiring the consent of the worker; and in the three compulsory cases, it will be after a report from the workers' representatives.

Health exams will be Initial to risk exposure, periodic, and after prolonged absence for health reasons. Neither the Prevention Law nor the Prevention Services Regulations contemplate the possibility of conducting health examinations prior to hiring.

The tests to be carried out will be the essential ones to be able to carry out a health surveillance oriented to the specific risks.

The information obtained will be strictly confidential and restricted; and it can never be used for discriminatory purposes for the worker.

Prevention and detection of substances of abuse

Although, as we have already said, the consumption of alcohol and drugs is a real problem in companies, the AU member states do not have specific laws or regulations to address this problem in companies.

The only justification for conducting drug studies on workers would be within the framework of a Preventive Program, which involves the participation of some representatives, and managed by the company's Medical Services, or you can contact Hayden Health & Safety testing services.

workplace drug and alcohol testing


Only after agreement in the Health and Safety Committee, and with the implementation of a written Preventive Program, agreed upon and approved by all parties, would such an intervention be possible.

Thus, the preventive program must go beyond a simple drug detection, and all this with an informed consent in all details by the worker.

In this sense, for example, in Australia, in 2002 the agreement for the prevention and treatment of drug addiction in the workplace was signed, which highlights:

  • The main purpose of the diagnostic process must be early therapeutic support for people who need it. This process must be known and accepted voluntarily by users, and must respect the confidentiality requirements established in the prevention law
  • Any intervention in the workplace, be it preventive or care, must be done in collaboration with the social partners, and with due guarantees of confidentiality.

Therefore, the elaboration of drug use detection processes will be considered inadmissible without first agreeing with unions and employers on the scope of application, the parameters on which it must be circumscribed, and the procedure and effects thereof.

In addition, behind any study of this type, there should be a treatment and rehabilitation program, since, as the Convention indicates, the diagnostic process is aimed at the therapeutic process.

Other Additional Considerations: Detection Methods

The number of different drugs of abuse that an individual can consume is very high.

The most widely used method for drug detection in the determination of the most common drugs in urine (cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, cannabis), leaving many undetermined with routine systems.

Urinary tests are qualitative, not quantitative. That is, they only indicate consumption. They do not translate Abuse, Dependence or Degree of Toxic Affection.

alcohol and drugs in workplace


Thus, a positive result will not allow us to indicate if it affects your work capacity, or if you were under the effects of the poison during the working day.

Another problem with these tests is false positives. Thus, by way of example, a cough suppressant containing codeine can test positive for Opiates, or the use of anti-inflammatories containing ibuprofen can give false positives for cannabis.

On the contrary, negative test results would only show the absence of consumption in the previous days.

Contact Hayden Health & Safety today to book in your testing or to arrange for a testing representative to visit your site to discuss a testing plan tailored to your safety requirements.

We also offer interest free payment plans for companies who conduct over 60 tests each year (any combination – Hearing, D&A or Spiro) 

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