ALCO Safe CEO Rhys Evans says corporations hiring people should subject them to substance tests for cannabis and other illegal substances as part of the recruiting and onboarding process. He also thinks the police should carry out compulsory roadside drug tests to check whether drivers have been consuming cannabis.
ALCO Safe CEO Rhys Evans says companies should ensure they are not unknowingly hire “individuals who will pose a threat to the sobriety and productivity of the workforce in place.”
"Workplace policies supercede personal privacy rights"
Writing an opinion piece in Durban’s Daily News on 4 October 2022, Evans said it was “also important to be aware of the fact that workplace policies supersede personal privacy rights, in respect of alcohol and substances. A recent high court judgment indicated that while the use of cannabis has been decriminalised by the Constitutional Court in an individual’s private life, this does not provide a defence for failing to comply with workplace rules that require a clean result from substance testing.
“It also does not matter if the individual is not impaired at the time of testing positive for a substance such as THC, what takes precedence is that there is a policy in place, the employee is aware of the policy, and the employee had previously worked in compliance with the policy.
ALCO Safe, a 42 year old company, supplies breathalyzers and drug testing equipment to 4 000 clients, including major organizations such as Autonet, Metrorail, Cargo Carriers, Engen, Shell, Iscor, Arcelor Mittal, Tongaat-Hulett, Sappi, major vehicle manufacturers and municipalities.
Rhys says companies with a zero-tolerance position towards alcohol, cannabis and other substances should make their positions very clear from the outset so as to avoid confusion.
Pre-employment drug testing is within a company's rights
“Pre-employment testing should be included in every workplace policy on substance misuse and clearly communicated in the job advert. Applicants must be informed that if they wish to proceed with the recruitment process for this position, they will be required to submit to an alcohol and drug test during the interview process.
"A sober workforce is both a legislative and an operational requirement. Employers have a duty to ensure a safe working environment, which includes a duty to prevent intoxicated people from entering the workplace” says Rhys.
For a person with a substance misuse problem, stopping consumption for at least a week before the interview and the test would be difficult. Such urine tests look for the presence of amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and benzos, among other substances. Some companies are looking for a greater range of substances, seeking to avoid hiring individuals with a prescription medication problem.
It is particularly important for both employers and potential employees to note that pre-employment testing is something that is well within the employer’s rights to enforce. The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that employers can take reasonably practical measures to ensure that intoxicated people are prohibited from entering the workplace.
Ilegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of THC
In a separate piece published on ALCO Safe’s website, Evans wrote that roadside drug testing should be implemented.
“Drug and alcohol abuse is a growing problem in society. it is important not to lose sight of the dangers of driving under the influence of intoxicating substances other than alcohol, especially in light of the decriminalisation of marijuana for private use. Updates in testing technology have made testing for the presence of intoxicating substances such as marijuana much easier and more accurate than was previously possible. With this in mind, road safety groups should be lobbying for the inclusion of compulsory roadside testing for marijuana alongside alcohol in order to counter a likely increase in the number of users. The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill looks set to make its way into law within the 2022/23 financial year and clear enforcement against intoxication while driving should be implemented.
"Although private use of cannabis has effectively been decriminalised, it is important to remember that the buying and selling of cannabis, cannabis oil and cannabis seeds is still a crime. In terms of the National Road Traffic Act, it is also a crime to operate a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating substance like marijuana. Parliament was given 24 months from the judgment date to align legislation with the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development developed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (currently up for public comment) to address these concerns.
“Much like driving under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating substances such as marijuana, have a major impact on the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Along with impaired concentration and slower reflex responses, drivers under the influence are more likely to take risks and drive recklessly, endangering other road users unnecessarily.”