Just how random is your random drug testing?

How random is your workplace random drug testing program?

Your workplace takes safety seriously, so you conduct drug testing regularly to ensure your employees are safe to do their jobs. That’s great, as conducting drug testing, including alcohol testing, is an excellent component of any good workplace safety program.

But, just how random is your random drug testing?

To be truly random, your drug testing program should contain any number of variables. This may include, depending on your workplace, aspects such as:

  • Site, if your business has more than one location
  • Off-site, if your business has people who work remotely (eg. transport drivers, sales reps, road construction crews). Including people who work off-site is more difficult but it’s important to randomly sample these employees
  • Different areas of your workplace
  • Different crews within your workplace
  • Employees from the different areas and crews
  • Day and time that testing takes place

There are several reasons why it’s important for your random drug testing to be truly random.

  • Perhaps most importantly, if it’s not random (for example if you conduct testing on a specific day each week or a specific work site on the same day each month) your employees will soon detect this and modify their drug or alcohol use to match.
  • If your drug testing is not random, some people may be tested regularly, while others may not be tested at all or may only be tested very occasionally.
  • Strongly related to the second bullet point, if your drug testing is not random and a particular person is tested more regularly than others, they may have a case for discrimination. This has occurred before. For example, in the United States (yes, we know, it does seem to be the litigation capital of the world!) an African-American man won a race discrimination case after he felt that he was drug tested more regularly than other employees.

So, to be truly random, your random drug testing has to be just that. Every single employee has the same chance of being chosen out of the hat (or more correctly these days by software) to undergo drug testing. This, of course, doesn’t mean that an employee might not have to take part in testing in two consecutive periods, or in a given year more than other employees, that’s the nature of the randomness, and this should be explained in education sessions for employees to avoid situations similar to those listed above.

It’s not just random (drug testing)

Does this mean you can’t test someone who you suspect of being under the influence of drugs and alcohol? Of course not, in fact it’s your responsibility as a workplace owner, manager or supervisor to do your utmost to ensure a safe workplace. Cause testing, as it is called, is a perfectly sensible step to employ in a workplace where safety as a priority.

But if you do conduct random drug testing, make sure it really is random.

The randomness of random testing

Why would some employees be tested more often than other employees if your drug testing program was truly random? This question can be answered with a simple demonstration. Take a coin and flip it. The chances of it landing on heads on the first flip is 50%. If we flip twice, the chances of getting two heads is 25%, three times it’s 12.5%, four times it’s 6.25% and five times it’s 3.125%. We could go on, but let’s not bore you!

The point here is that while a coin toss with a normal coin is totally random, do it enough times and you will get 3, 4 or 5 heads or tails in a row. Over many tosses, however, it’s likely you will end up with around 50% heads and 50% tails.


How random is your workplace random drug testing program? Credit Thad Zajdowicz (image modified) https://bit.ly/2w5jPvN

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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