Alcohol Testing vs Drug Testing – Equal Importance?

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During my years in the industry it has been evident that alcohol testing receives less emphasis and publicity than drug testing.  This is most interesting when alcohol is:

    • the more widely used substance.
    • is legally available and thus more accessible.
    • is easier to detect or test for.
    • is more accepted by workplaces and community as a risk which needs to be managed.

I must conclude that alcohol testing receives the least exposure because:

    • Alcohol testing is generally considered secondary in importance to drug testing by the service providers and manufacturers.
    • Alcohol testing is less controversial so it generates less debate or dispute in a workplace.
    • Media tends to focus on drug use, drug prevalence and testing of same. It is more sensational and makes for “better reading”.

For workplaces conducting a testing program, the importance of the alcohol testing must not be overlooked.  The fact that it is easier to test for, and less contentious should be reason enough to make it a priority. It is a shame that economics (or profits) sometimes drive the emphasis on drug testing.

With the great prevalence of alcohol use it would surely be beneficial for all workplaces to test for alcohol at double, triple, or more than the volume of drug testing conducted.

Alcohol testing programs should perhaps be considered as a field of their own.  In the majority of cases it is economically feasible for workplaces to test for alcohol more regularly than they currently are. Some workplaces already do recognise this and conduct alcohol testing at double the rate of drug testing.  What is the optimum level however?  This depends on the risk profile for the workplace concerned. It may be warranted and feasible to test at four, six or eight times the rate of drug testing, for some high risk workplaces.  There are certainly some industrial sites which test all employees and contractors for alcohol daily.

There are certainly some industrial sites which test all employees and contractors for alcohol daily. Logistical issues sometimes make this difficult and it seems to be gated industrial facilities that adopt this level of testing.  Of course, once a decision is made to test for alcohol at higher levels there are always solutions to making it easy and affordable.  Fixed alcohol testing devices can be useful.

The above is interesting food for thought.  Consider the balance of testing you are considering, or already maintain, for your workplace.








About the Author:

Cameron Stuart has specialised in saliva based workplace drug & alcohol testing programs since 2003. He has personally conducted many thousands of tests and implemented drug & alcohol testing programs into hundreds of workplaces. He consults to workplaces throughout Australia to assist with their drug testing programs.

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