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Alcohol and Drug Testing in Construction

The Rise of Substance Abuse in the UK Construction Industry

Substance abuse at the work place is not a new phenomenon and has been an issue for a very long time. In the UK, the statistics are alarming since a spike upwards in this trend has been observed over the past few years.

In the construction industry in particular, the numbers are especially high and this has raised concern for many stakeholders in this industry. As such a solution was inevitably needed to work out this problem which will continue to persist until a permanent choice of action is reached at.

There are many reasons why workers indulge in drugs and alcohol at construction sites. Below are just a few of these reasons.

1. building & construction jobs are in their nature, very demanding. As such this creates a high tension environment for the workers some of whom opt for a drink or two or some other sort of substance to ‘calm’ their selves down and ‘focus’.
2. It may have been an issue for them even before they started the job and are just carrying on the habit even at work.
3. They may be projecting on the issues around their personal lives and opt to indulge in substance abuse to help them ‘forget’ about what’s really going on.

Common Substances tested for

The following are the main substances being screened for whenever a drug test is conducted on a worker:
1. Alcohol
2. THC; the active component of cannabis.
3. Opiates
4. Amphetamines
5. Morphine
6. Phencyclidine (Angel Dust/PCP)

Testing for Substance abuse in Construction

Firstly, it should be realized that the point of engaging in this kind of exercise is not to capture and persecute substance users, rather it is a measure aimed towards maintaining safety and integrity in the work place. Implementing a proper and legal schedule for these tests have been proven to lower the rates of substance abuse as well as improve productivity in the construction site overall.

Here we take a look at some of the tests used to screen for substances in the UK construction industry and how they are done.

Urine Testing

Saliva testing

This is the most common and most preferred mode of testing for substances in the work place and especially in the construction sites. The subject is provided with a urine cup where they provide a sample of their urine which is then put through a relatively simple test on a test kit to detect substances. The simplicity and accuracy of this test makes it ideal for such an environment.
The tests being simple can even be done by site supervisors without any special training. Urine tests are also ideal since substances can test positive even after a considerable period of time.
Saliva testing has grown in popularity over the years not only in this kind of use but for other medical purposes as well. In the case of substance detection at work, they are growing in popularity due to the ease of access to the testing kits; they are available in pharmacies, some supermarkets and even from online retailers, they are cheap and easy of use.

Fingerprint testing

Hair Testing

fingerprint drug testing is a relatively new technology deployed for the detection of substances in the work environment. The kit just requires a simple tap of a finger on the panel by the subject and presents the results in about 5 seconds. When a subject tests positive, two more samples are taken in order to confirm the result of the initial test.
This particular test is being hailed since it is least invasive compared to the other modes of testing.
Hair testing is mainly deployed when an employer wants a better picture on their employee or soon to be employee’s long term history. This kind of test can reveal evidence of substance abuse as far back as 3 months as such an important tool for companies or employers looking to fill in key positions.

Impact of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Construction

It creates an unsafe working environment since people under the influence cannot coherently operate machinery used around the site properly. In some reported cases, there have been occurrences of death as a result of improper equipment handling by persons under the influence.

1. It slows down the rate of the work being done since those under the influence are unable to function at the required full capacity.

2. It contributes to absenteeism in the work place since some of the abusers can end up too inebriated to even get up from bed let alone make it to the construction site.


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