The importance of drug and alcohol testing in uncertain times
01 February 2021
The ongoing pandemic has had a dramatic impact on daily life. COVID-19 has changed how we socialise, work and go about our daily routines. If infections continue to rise, we will all have to live with ongoing restrictions in some form or another for quite some time.
COVID-19 has altered the way which we consume, and drugs & alcohol are no exception. The closure of pubs and restaurants have meant that supermarket and off-licenses have seen alcohol sales soar due to drinking from home being the main way to consumer alcohol. Drug consumption has been affected, with supply chains being impacted due to lockdowns & limit on travel distances.
New studies have begun to emerge which highlight how consumption trends in relation to alcohol specifically have changed since COVID-19 begun.
Below are some of the key findings:
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists analysed Public Health England data to reveal that over 8.4 million people are now drinking at a higher risk level – rising from 4.8 million in February; a 75% increase.
- Data from the Commission on Alcohol Harms and the Alcohol Health Alliance revealed that alcohol sales rose by 67% before lockdown began.
- An interim report from the Global Drug Survey (GDS) in early June revealed that COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown have changed people’s drinking habit.
- 47% of Britons who drink stated that they had been drinking earlier in the day since lockdown started – a figure that was higher than for most other nations included in the survey.
- In addition, over 50% of Britons revealed that they had increased the number of days on which they drink, with a third of British respondents also reporting an increase in binge drinking.
- Alcohol Change commissioned a study that looked at drinking consumptions during lockdown in England.
- One in five drinkers (21%) said they have been drinking more frequently since the lockdown. This equates to around 8.6 million UK adults who may be drinking more frequently.
- 15% of those surveyed also said they have been drinking more per session since lockdown.
Business As Usual
The reason for highlighting the above figures is to show that, whilst for many lockdown meant adjusting to working from home, others business sectors continued to operate as normal. As such, workplace testing for drugs & alcohol shifted dramatically. Many companies who had a testing policy in place that included random testing suddenly stopped due to staff being based at home. However, other key sectors such as construction, manufacturing, logistics all continued to function. With these businesses continuing, Randox Testing Services (RTS) remains open and fully operational and available to carry out testing.
Michelle Fenn, Business Development Manager for RTS, commented on the changing testing trends that occurred;
“RTS continue to operate and provide full-service provision during the on-going pandemic. During the first lockdown we noticed a change in testing, as more companies operated on a work from home basis. However, for some this isn’t possible and have had to maintain operations. Due to circumstances, we have seen companies increase pre-employment testing as new staff are brought on to cope with changing workplace demands. Other testing programmes have been altered such as random testing, but we continue to provide full services and are meeting & often exceeding requirements by our customers.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, RTS have continued to provide drug & alcohol testing services. At all times, we have ensured our staff are equipped to provide sensible advice and flexible solutions to drug & alcohol testing.
We have provided each Collection Officer with full PPE to ensure they meet requirements for personal and professional safety. Full social distancing guidelines are always followed whilst conducting testing. We continue to advise and navigate companies through this period as more businesses return and testing is required.
Importance of testing
The stats mentioned at the top of this article highlight the changing nature of how people have consumed alcohol over the last 12 months. With increases being seen in both quantity of consumption and frequency, it is important that companies are aware of the potential dangers that may arise if a member of staff arrives to work intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
In addition to the alcohol stats, annual research is also carried out to highlight drug consumption patterns. According to research by Public Health England and the devolved nations Health Departments, the most recent surveys covering England, Wales and Scotland reported the highest prevalence of drug use in the past 10 years. From the most recent surveys, the prevalence of any drug use in the last year was 9.4% in England and Wales, 12% in Scotland, and 5.9% in Northern Ireland.
In September 2020, a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said Scotland had the highest recorded drug death rate in Europe, far ahead of Sweden in second place. More than 1,200 people in Scotland died of drug misuse in 2019.
The consumption of drugs & alcohol in these uncertain times can cause untold potential dangers for employers. Whilst many companies will continue to function with staff working remotely, for some this isn’t possible.
Safety-critical industries such as construction, manufacturing and logistics will have staff present who need to carry on with daily tasks. It is important to ensure that staff are always safe, this includes provision of testing for drugs & alcohol.
Risk of injury
Employers put in place multiple mechanisms to ensure accidents at work do not occur. Despite these efforts, it’s not always possible to remove the danger. In the UK, workplace injury amounted to £5.2 billion in costs/damages in 2017/18.
28.2 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2018/19. Furthermore, the construction, retail/wholesale, manufacturing, accommodation and agriculture had statistically higher rate of workplace injury per 100,000 workers according to the Labour Force Survey 2018/19.
These statistics highlight the dangers of accidents occurring in the workplace. With the potential for serious injury or worst-case scenario a fatal incident, it is of paramount importance to ensure employees are safe in the knowledge that accidents will not occur due to substance misuse or employees being under the influence.
Fully managed testing service
Randox Testing Services specialise in drug and alcohol testing for workplaces. We provide a quality service that covers all employer needs with the safety of employees at the centre of this focus.
Our experience in the industry and the knowledge of our parent company Randox Laboratories has allowed us to pivot our offering to provide fully compliant and safe COVID-19 testing for workplaces. In these uncertain times, COVID-19 can cause potentially devastating consequences if not correctly managed and addressed.
A new study by researchers at University College London revealed that 86% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 did not have symptoms, highlighting the importance of frequent screening to reduce spread of the virus.
Our COVID-19 test uses Real-Time PCR to accurately detect for the virus. With our knowledge & expertise in testing for workplace companies, we are proud to offer this service; with our test currently used as part of the Government’s National Testing Programme.
The service includes a range of different options, each designed to meet the needs of any business and their requirements. From a fully managed service where our trained and full PPE equipped Collection Officers will conduct testing on behalf of your company, to our mobile testing unit which can move to multiple sites and conduct large volume testing with results in less than three hours, we are confident our services can meet your needs. By using any of our testing services for COVID-19, you can provide peace of mind to employees by conducing regular testing or get your employees back to work as part of a return to work programme.
About Randox Testing Services
We specialise in testing. Whether that be for drugs & alcohol or COVID-19, we are confident that no matter what your testing needs, we will be able to fully understand your requirements and successfully help your company to reduce the impact of drugs & alcohol or COVID-19.
Employees are a company’s greatest asset. Therefore, it is important to ensure they are not exposed to any dangers such as someone potentially intoxicated from drug & alcohol consumption. RTS can help eradicate this danger, whilst helping your employees successfully understand how to mitigate the impacts of substance misuse, through managed testing programme and a range of training & education services to inform and educate staff.
Contact us today and speak with our experts who will provide more information about how testing works and the ways in which RTS can help your company.
Phone: +44 (0) 28 9445 1011
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