Over 323 million Americans directly and indirectly depend on energy and utility companies to provide them with services that are necessary in not only preserving, but upgrading their way of life.
The energy and utilities sector is comprised of establishments that deal with the provision of electric power, water supply, steam supply, natural gas and sewage removal. Under this sector, specifics with each service provider may include a combination of the following: generation, transmission, distribution, provision, collection, treatment and disposal. For example, electric power includes generation, transmission, and distribution, whereas sewage removal involves the collection, treatment, and disposal of waste through sewage treatment facilities and sewer systems.
Workers in the energy and utilities industry provide the nation with all that is essential to live a civilized life. Without these seemingly basic services, the very core of the country may well be diminished in time.
As of April 2017, there are 555,900 people employed in the utilities industry, earning an average of $39.23 per hour. The energy industry in particular is also comprised of the petroleum industry, gas industry, coal industry, nuclear power industry, and the renewable energy industry which also includes other alternative and sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
These employees are tasked to handle multibillion dollars’ worth of infrastructure that vary in the way they are handled, operated, maintained, collected, stored and disposed. A wrong move or decision due to human error may cause serious accidents and even fatalities not only to employees but to the general public as well. It is very clear that employees entrusted with safety-sensitive jobs must at all times have presence and alertness of mind. Employees of the energy and utilities sector are expected to be prepared and attentive on the job not only for the safety of the public, but also to boast their performance and the industry as well.
The utility industry is still considered to be in a period of transformation. America is still in the threshold of new discoveries and inventions to help save and maximize energy and power. In this connection, employees of the energy and utilities sector should be above par when on and off the job.
In 2015, Illicit drug use in the past month for individuals aged 26 and over is at 8.2% whereas alcohol use in the past month for the same age group is at 87.10%. Implementing drug testing in the utilities sector is a positive action.
Sourcing Illicit Drugs and Alcohol
Drug trade is alive in America. For those in the know, there is always a street dealer, a friend or a friend of a friend that one can be discreetly referred to if buying illicit drugs. Of course, not all who sell drugs off streets can be trusted to trade unadulterated illicit substances such as methamphetamine and ecstasy. Stories of sudden death due to taking adulterated and low quality drugs have been documented. Nevertheless drug trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry.
The use and abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise nationwide. Marijuana is still the top choice for first-time drug users in the United States but prescription drugs seem to be edging out marijuana. Prescription drug trafficking is now a very lucrative industry in the United States. The most popular among these drugs is Oxycontin, which could fetch for as high as $80 per pill according to Sergeant Stephen Opferman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s.
Prescription drugs hit the streets in various means, one of which is the actual theft of legitimate shipments.
There are cases of physicians writing false prescriptions that drug dealers fill and then sell the lot on the streets.
Opferman mentioned that Medicare fraud is another way of sourcing prescription drugs to be sold in the drug market. Medicare beneficiaries are recruited by traffickers and convince them to sell their monthly prescription drug supplies in exchange for cash. Based on the estimates by Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, this illegal activity costs them billions of dollars annually.
Technology has brought an innovative way to buy and sell drugs. The darknet is known to host several sites that sell drugs. Access is not for the uninitiated but there are now tutorial sites on how to access the darknet market.
Buying alcohol is not a problem in the United States as long as one is of age.
Importance of Drug Testing Energy and Utilities Industry Employees
Drug and alcohol use and abuse among employees (and even their families) of the energy and utilities sector is potentially an expensive problem. Possible problems that may evolve range from absenteeism, lost or lowered productivity, theft, increased healthcare, fatalities, injuries, low employee morale, workers’ compensation costs and legal liabilities. Impact of drug dependence and alcohol abuse in the workplace is more focused on:
- Fatal accidents and premature death
- Accident and injuries rates
- Sick leave and absenteeism
- Significant loss of production
Other problems that may arise due to illicit substance use include:
- Mediocre work and diminished decision making ability
- Sleeping on the job or tardiness
- Increased incidence of conflict with co-workers and superiors
- Preoccupation with using or obtaining illicit substance
- Possibility of drug trafficking in the workplace
- High turnover and training of new employees
- Increase in disciplinary issues
It is possible that immediate family members of an addict or alcoholic may also suffer work- related problems such as work quality, absenteeism and health related issues.
Drinking on the job and heavy drinking the night before are common practices for alcohol abusers. Non-alcohol dependent drinkers who drink too much on occasions could cause alcohol-related problems in the workplace too.
The use of prescription drugs, even for medical reasons, has side effects and reactions as well. Taking such drugs must be under the prescription of a qualified physician as its effect can affect one’s health, well being and work.
Drug testing in the workplace is a deterrent for employees to take illicit substances. Random drug testing of employees is a way of identifying those who are in need of drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation.
Drug Abuse Statistics for Employees
- Employees with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to have injury-related absences than workers without drinking problems.
- About 35% of patients with work-related injury are alcohol abusers.
- Workplace fatalities indicated that 11% of the victims had alcohol in their system.
- According to federal surveys, about 24% of employees are drinking on the job at least once in the past year.
- About 1/5 of managers and workers across various industries claim that workplace productivity and safety are compromised by co-workers drinking on or off the job.
- About 70% of close to 15 million employed Americans use illegal drugs.
- The most commonly used and abused illicit drugs by employees are marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.
Types of Drug Tests for Energy and Utilities Sector Workers
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) requires companies mandated by the Federal government to test for five specific drug categories namely: cannabinoids, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates and phencyclidine. Due to this federal requirement, majority of drug testing companies offer tests that will identify these drugs. However, there are also drug test panels that identify up to 12 drugs.
- Saliva drug testing – This type of test requires a simple mouth swab of the subject. There is no need for a specialized person to take the swab as it is fairly simple to swab the mouth, put the specimen in a sealed test tube and send it to a laboratory for analysis. This test can detect more recent use than any other drug testing method, and has been found quite reliable in the detection of opiates and methamphetamine.
- Hair drug testing – Hair follicle drug testing is relatively unintrusive. The top feature of this test is that it can detect substance used over a long period of time (up to three months). This method is more accurate. Abstinence in using drugs will not affect the test results of this method. Because of the nature of this drug test it is possible to say when drug use occurred, or when drug use stopped. HairConfirm test for 7 drugs namely cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, marijuana, PCP, methamphetamines, and opiates.
- Urine drug testing – This test may be the least expensive but most popular and fairly accurate drug testing method. It is an intrusive method but it can be done in the privacy of one’s home though the test result requires laboratory verification to confirm presumptive positive results. Abstaining from drugs for a few days can affect the results that this test is best for random drug testing of employees.
Confirm BioSciences offers a wide range of drug test kits for workers in the energy and utilities sector. Offered are reliable, accurate and cost-efficient drug tests that can be used for pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing and alcohol testing, post-accident or post-incident tests and more. Employers tend to drug test their employees who are up for promotion. In case of medical emergencies relating to drug use, it is best to call for the services of a qualified medical doctor.
Hundreds of millions of Americans depend on energy and utility companies to supply them with the power they need. These services are essential in preserving our way of life in this ever-connected technological world. Workers in this industry provide fresh water, electricity, natural gas, and sewage removal through cities all across the country.
In the energy and utility industry, workers are entrusted with billions of dollars of public infrastructure so it is not difficult to see why employers are opting to drug screen potential candidates. In this field, having clear-minded employees is not only vital for strong job performance, but also for avoiding all of the risks employees will face on the job.
Why Drug Testing in the Energy & Utility Fields?
As energy companies are some of the largest employers in the nation, almost all of these companies employ a “safety first” attitude, which starts with mandatory drug testing. Many of these workers are out in the field performing tasks such as operating cranes, drilling wells, fixing electrical wires, and handling dangerous tools.
Both employers and the general population rely on these workers to perform their jobs to the best of their ability, and promoting an effective drug-free workplace is one way to ensure this.
Here are some of the various risks associated with drug and alcohol abuse in energy & utility companies:
- Slip and falls
- Falling equipment and materials
- Hazardous gas leaks
- Pinching and crushing of extremities
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Exposure to radioactive materials
- Falling from heights
- Cuts and lacerations from equipment
Employers can limit these risks by ensuring a drug-free work place through the use of drug testing.
In addition, when employers drug test it has proven to decrease employee turnover, increase productivity, increase overall morale of employees, and reduce medical claim costs to employers. Some employers even get discounted health insurance rates by showing insurance companies that employees are drug-free.
When to Drug Test – Energy & Utility
Employers in energy and utility companies have the right to drug test employees at any of the following times:
- At their own discretion
- Pre-employment drug and alcohol screening
- Random drug and alcohol testing (ensures no drug usage once hired)
- Post-incident drug and alcohol testing
- Abstinence monitoring
- Suspicious drug/alcohol screening
- When moving employees to new positions within the company
- + More
What Kind of Drug Testing Should Energy & Utility Companies Perform?
The most common drugs tested for include, Marijuana (THC), Opiates, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Morphine, Methadone, MDMA, Benzodiazepines, Buprenorphine, and Heroin.
Due to the many risks employees will face in the field, many energy companies choose to drug test employees through hair follicle drug testing, which has a detection time of up to three months. This test is extremely reliable as the hair sample is sent to a lab, and can tell drug usage (or the lack of) a variety of drugs. This is a preferred pre-employement testing method.