Employee drug testing during pandemic
The need for employee drug testing in safety critical industries like construction, haulage, logistics, manufacturing, warehouses etc has not gone away with the pandemic. Some would say the need has increased in these industries, as stress from the pandemic may push up drug and alcohol abuse significantly. Interestingly the police force have continued to drug test at the roadside, and have reported that positive roadside drug driving tests still remain high, despite the pandemic.
The same Covid-19 guidelines of Hands, Face, Space apply when you are drug testing in the workplace in the UK.
How to make sure that your drug testing procedures are as safe as possible
Workplace drug and alcohol testing is still possible during the pandemic, with the use of appropriate PPE, increased hygiene measures, good ventilation, environmental cleaning before and after, and social distancing as per UK government guidelines.
As with all workplace drug testing, you must have the employees consent to perform the drug test, and it is best if this is written into your policies. If you do not have a drug testing policy, now is a good time to write one. Many companies also incorporate it into their health and safety policy.
Key points to consider for safer drug and alcohol testing:
These are our suggestions for how you can make your workplace drug testing procedures as Covid safe as possible.
Before you start a drug test make sure that the employee is not experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19. If they are the drug test should be rescheduled, and the employee advised to self isolate, and visit government website for current advice. A non contact infrared thermometer is useful so that you can check the temperature of each employee prior to starting drug testing. Some workplaces now use these on a daily basis to check staff or arrival at work. Most GP surgeries and dentists are using them on patients on arrival.
Switch to a drug test kit design that minimises sample handling
- Consider using a drug testing kit that reduces sample handling to the absolute minimum. The direct saliva drug test kit is a good choice or a sealed cup urine drug test kit where the drug test is built into the cup.
- Move to single use disposable breathalyser kits for all initial alcohol screening in preference to digital breathalysers ( to avoid contamination )
- If you need to do both drug and alcohol testing consider using a combined drug and alcohol test kit rather than a breathalyser.
Ensure the environment where the drug test will occur is as Covid secure as possible
- Choose a room to conduct the drug test that is well ventilated, or even consider doing the drug test outside if that is an option.
- Ventilate the room well before, during and after the drug test has been performed.
- Consider scheduling a gap between each person being tested, if you are performing multiple employee drug tests, so that the room can air
- Only collect samples for drug testing in a secure environment which can be cleaned thoroughly between each drug test.
- Ideally hand washing facilities with soap should be available for the sample collector and the employee being tested.
- A bin with bin bag should be available to dispose of gloves and used drug tests safely.
- A hand sanitiser containing 70% alcohol should be available for use by both the employee and the person performing the drug test and should be used before and after the drug test except when an alcohol, test is being performed.
- Be aware that if an alcohol breathalyser or drug test that detects alcohol is being used, the hand sanitiser may give a false positive result. When performing a test for alcohol you will need to have hand washing facilities available.
- Disposable gloves should be worn and disposed of after each drug test has been performed
- Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, if hand washing facilities are available.
- A good quality hand sanitiser should also be available
Use appropriate PPE-Hands And Face
This should ideally include the following:
- Always wear a pair of disposable medical gloves. A new pair of gloves should be worn and disposed of after each drug test has been performed, and ideally the hands should be washed between each glove change.
- The person performing the drug test should always wear a disposable surgical face mask
- The employee being drug tested should always wear a face covering or mask and only take it off if an oral drug test is being used. The face mask or covering should then be put straight back on.
- A face visor or safety goggles for the collector would give extra protection
- A disposable apron or gown will help to protect clothing.
When you are performing a drug test on an employee the same rules of social distancing should be adhered to, for both the safety of the employee and the person performing the test. Remember the greater the space between the employee being drug tested and the person performing the test the safer it is.
Key things to remember for social distancing during a work drug test:
- If you can direct the employee to perform the drug test on themselves, and then place it down and step back away from it to a distance of 2 metres, before you pick it up to read the results
- Try to maintain a social distance of 2 metres at all times if possible.
- Avoid standing face to face, rather stand to the side of the employee when talking to them or collecting the sample from them.