Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Construction Industry

Construction is one of the most important industries. We all depend on it in one form or another, and it touches all of our lives. We trust construction companies to be able to competently erect a building and have all the systems working properly with minimal delays. The construction industry has a huge responsibility to people.

Why Substance Abuse Testing in Construction?

Construction companies are entrusted with the building of multi-million dollar buildings. One mistake made by an employee can end up costing a construction company huge amounts of money and irreparable damage to their reputation.

Furthermore, construction is an industry that has a relatively high level of drug abuse associated with it, so it is within a company’s best interests to test its employees regularly.

A survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that the construction industry has some of the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse.

Position Current Illicit Drug Use (%) Current Heavy Alcohol Use (%)
Construction Laborers 12.8 % 19.9 %
Construction Supervisors 17.2 % 12.7 %
Other Construction Workers 17.3 % 20.6 %
Source: US Department of Labor

What Kind of Drug Testing Should Construction Companies Perform?

Instant saliva drug testing is the preferred method for making sure there are no drugs being used on the job site, as drug use will be immediately detectable in saliva (whereas it could take up to an hour or two to be detectable in urine). Post accident and reasonable suspicion testing is best done via saliva tests. These tests can also be done anywhere and eliminate the need for same-sex observers that urine drug testing requires. They are also virtually impossible to cheat.

Random drug testing still primarily consists of urine drug tests. Often, construction companies opt for multi-panel drug tests that test for a high number of drugs, sometimes more than a dozen. This is usually done by the companies in high risk areas to weed out people who abuse lesser known drugs.

Many construction companies have also started testing for synthetic marijuana, so-called bath salts and other synthetic drugs, as the popularity of these drugs increases. Some also test for alcohol for incidents that happen on the job site and many test for cotinine (nicotine) for medical insurance purposes.

Due to the high accident rates in the construction industry it is vital for management to take the necessary steps to implement programs and procedures that will increase construction safety and worker productivity. 40% of construction fatalities involve substance abuse and 71% of union members are in favor of drug testing. While the effects of a drug-related job site accidents can be catastrophic for individuals and companies, management should realize that drug use among employees can also be damaging to moral, productivity, and quality even if it does not result in accidents.

Drug and alcohol testing construction workers is an effective method for reducing the number of impaired workers on a project site, increasing overall project safety, worker morale and productivity as well as increasing profits.

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