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Drug testing can be a touchy subject, but the fact is that a key responsibility of employers is to make sure their employees are safe and productive on the job. That often means incorporating drug screening into their hiring and ongoing employment practices. As workplace cultures are changing, drug testing may or may not need to be the right fit for your company. Here are a few things to take into consideration as you consider drug testing in the modern age.

Workplace Drug Testing: The Pros

In positions where the safety of the workplace is at risk should workers abuse drugs on the job, it makes a great deal of sense to require drug screening prior to hiring an employee and periodically throughout their tenure with the company. Workers who abuse drugs are less able to be effective on the job. They are often the cause of businesses facing exposure to higher liability to workplace accidents or health risks to coworkers as well.

Testing that falls within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration guidelines includes alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and marijuana. Further testing can include methadone, propoxyphene, hallucinogens, inhalants, anabolic steroids, hydrocodone, and MDMA.

Per the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 10 to 20 percent of workers involved in fatal accidents on the job did in fact test positive for illicit drugs and alcohol use. As an employer, screening out potential liabilities through drug tests makes a lot of sense. They also feel that there is an added benefit of helping those employees who would otherwise find their lives less fulfilling due to drug addiction and the accompanying financial and emotional wellbeing provided by successful completion of a recovery program.

Workplace Drug Testing: The Cons

While drug testing can help identify problems before they result in accidents on the job, random workplace drug testing may build resentment among employees who feel the practice indicates a lack of trust on the part of their employer. They can be felt as a violation of their right to privacy and can add to a reputation of an overly “corporate” employer. There are also the costs to consider when deciding whether drug testing is right for your business. The testing itself can be costly in terms of the procedure as well as the lost productivity of the workers.

In some cases, workers who are against drug testing in the workplace may threaten to sue over results costing employers even more. Beyond that, the debatable accuracy of some drug test can result in false positives that would do harm to worker reputation, or false negatives that fail to identify security risks.

Overall, the pros and cons of workplace drug testing must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If the security of the workplace is dependent on ensuring that workers are not under the influence, then the costs, privacy concerns, and even the debatable accuracy may be worth overlooking. But keep in mind that these can expose new liabilities that your company would need to address. Work with your legal department to make the right decisions and have correct (and updated) policies in place.

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