Alcohol testing in the workplace has become increasingly common, as the dangers and liabilities in many industries of employees being under the influence of alcohol can be significant. Drug testing, however, is less common, even though the consequences are no less severe and the same legislation governs the usage of both substances.

Drug testing has often been seen as challenging to implement from a legal perspective, as well expensive, an invasion of privacy, and a host of other perceived obstacles that have limited its use. However, given the growing problem of drug abuse in South Africa and the dire consequences on safety, performance and efficiency, such methods have never been more important. Improvements in available technology have made drug testing easier and more affordable than ever, and this, combined with appropriate education and drug-testing policies, can assist organisations to save lives as well as improve productivity and their bottom line. Both alcohol and drugs cause impairment of judgement that can constitute a workplace hazard, particularly in environments that involve the operation of machinery.

Preventing substance abuse in the workplace is not only generally accepted to be best practice, it is also regulated by the Operational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which applies not only to dangerous environments, but to any business in any industry. OHSA General Safety Regulation 2A states that every employer has a duty to stop persons from entering or remaining at work if they appear to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. In addition to improving safety and decreasing risk, ensuring a drug-free workplace can also help to improve productivity and employee performance, which helps to add value to business. Implementing drug testing alongside alcohol testing is essential for OHSA compliance, comprehensive substance abuse control, and ensuring workers are performing to the best of their ability. However, in order to ensure that drug testing does not become a legal issue, a multifaceted approach is required. This includes substance abuse policies, employee education and drug testing.