Drug testing in the workplace has always been a fairly divisive issue. In spite of being a common requirement for many industries, it continues to be a hot button topic. However, the truth is that there are several pros and cons to mandatory drug testing for employees.
One of the most obvious and important pros to drug testing in the workplace pertains to employee safety. In working environments such as those involving regular use of heavy machinery, dangerous equipment, or even sharp cooking knives, ensuring that employees are not under the influence of any substances can go a long way in reducing workplace accidents.
In addition to preventing accidental injury, workplace drug tests may also be of great benefit to substance abusers. Certain types of drug testing, such as a hair test, can provide a historical detail of a user, indicating whether a serious problem exists or not. This not only helps to assess a prospective candidate, but could also help to address a dependency problem for which the user may need to seek professional treatment.
Of course, one important pro for workplace drug testing is that it can be a strong deterrent that will leave employees less inclined to engage in any drug use at all.
As to the cons of workplace drug tests, one is that it may turn out to be rather costly. Testing a single employee might be affordable, but for a big company, testing its entire staff will add up to a much larger bill. Not to mention that the type of test can have a great effect on price. Hair testing, which is known to be among the most accurate type of testing, is also among the most expensive.
There is also some debate as to the accuracy of drug testing. Various types of testing mean various results. Hair and urine tests provide more historical information, whereas past drug use would be irrelevant in determining current drug use in relation to a recent accident. Even an accurate reading may be lacking context. Legal, recreational use of a substance in the days prior to an accident could result in unfair termination of employment. A very small margin of error could have lasting and devastating effects for the employee.
Another con would likely be that for many employees, workplace drug testing is viewed as an invasion of privacy, especially in cases where no probable cause to conduct a test exists. Many employees argue that as long as they are not appearing for work under the influence, that an employer should not question what they do recreationally on their own time. These sentiments could erode the trust between employer and employee.
While workplace drug testing can be viewed as an invasion of privacy and rather costly, at the same time, it is one of the only ways a company can ensure the health, productivity, and well being of its employees.