Impairment tests are considered non-invasive and less ‘personal’ for the average employee. It has long been known that impairment testing has inherent advantages that make it potentially superior to urine testing in both improving safety and protecting employee privacy. However, it has not taken hold in the industrial and service sector….in doing research for the Workplace Drug Policy I realized that I wanted to know why…
As stated in the Workplace Drug Policy BLOG, there are two (2) major reasons for implement drug-testing policies in the workplace….both productivity and safety. In many industries, employees are required to complete highly complex tasks and the mistakes of one (1) individual can have a significant negative effect on an organization’s bottom line. Proponents of drug testing policies argue that these procedures protect the health and safety of both the workers and the general public. Industrial accidents have declined over the years because of advances in designing safe-work equipment, improved work processes and valid training programs that help increase an employee’s knowledge and skill.
There are a group of sociologists in both the US and Canada that believe that an adequate alternative to drug testing in the workplace is 'impairment testing'. It is believed that impairment testing is better suited than drug tests to recognize the substandard work that should concern managers before it occurs. Impairment tests screen employees at the beginning of a shift to identify those times, for whatever reasons, they are less alert than normal to perform their job. Impairment testing helps organizations determine if an employee shows signs of current impairment that may indicate they are more likely to make serious work related errors.
Impairment testing measures the impact of both illegal and legal substances ….legal substances can cause workplace impairment as well. Drug tests are not intended to measure to what extent legal substances are used. Studies have found that over-the-counter anti-histamines are related to workplace accidents since these medications can lead to drowsiness and inattention. Impairment tests can measure the effect of both legal and illegal substances on performance. This is a strong argument that organizations should focus on impairment testing rather than drug testing….or a combination of the two (2)…for impairment testing can cover a greater domain of potential causes of poor performance than workplace drug testing can do alone.
I believe that one (1) of the reasons that impairment testing has fallen by the wayside is the fact that a number of organizations go through the motions with workplace drug testing…they do their perfunctory duty and utilize it as a ‘screener’ for potential employees and then never, ever utilize it again…unless, of course, a Workers’ Compensation claim dictates that they do so….I think that the government mandates helped contribute to the extensive use of drug/urine testing versus impairment testing…a simple, single step to ascertain if a potential employee or an existing employee utilizes illegal drugs…the problem with random drug testing in the workplace is that the average drug user doesn’t work for a company that performs random testing or they know how to manipulate the tests….Impairment testing cannot be manipulated….and if someone smokes dope on the way to work or puts that shot of whiskey in their morning coffee, the impairment test, which is completed every day prior to the beginning of the workday, is going to identify the ‘impairment’….may not identify the WHY, but will most certainly identify its presence…..
There is not much more information on the internet or within the confines of the HR community….I would be interested to know the real reason that impairment testing has not taken off….I think it is a good and ethical alternative to Workplace Drug Testing…especially when there is no follow up after the initial hiring process.
If you have any comments or questions regarding impairment testing or any type of alternative to Workplace Drug Testing, please contact Rosanne Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-798-1236. We can learn together the more humane manner an employee can be hired as well as retained or terminated.