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Your recent survey regarding drug use in the yachting industry revealed how many different opinions there are regarding this very hot topic. (“Crew see drugs in industry, not onboard,” page C1, March 2013 issue.)
The history of drug testing in commercial transportation such as airlines, trucking, railroad and shipping has always occurred after an accident that caused harm or death to employees, passengers or the environment. In most cases, these industries now have formal and thorough drug testing programs.
The argument for the yachting industry is to mirror other transportation sectors and take a proactive approach in instituting a random drug testing policy. Relying on reacting after an accident has proved to be ineffective in deterring drug use.
It is common for a yacht or a management house to have zero tolerance policy in place but these drug-testing policies must be enforced for it to work. A written policy with no action is not as effective as one that actually follows a solid plan.
There are many benefits to employers who require random drug testing of their employees. Crew agencies, management companies and captains rely on their employees for productivity, safety and success. Each segment of the industry that touches the crew member — whether pre-employment or once employed — has a responsibility to the owner of the vessel, guest and other crew members that the candidate is drug free, and that once employed, the atmosphere on board promotes a drug-free environment.
Land-based employers who have random drug screening programs have stated that it has resulted in “decreases in absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and theft; increases in productivity and improved morale”. With employees knowing that there could be a random or scheduled screen in the near future it not only modifies their current behavior but also often has long-term benefits in keeping prior users in a drug-free lifestyle. A solid drug-testing policy and implementation of testing procedures will assist in keeping yachts and passengers safe as well as a crew happy.
Studies have shown that employers pay lower premiums for certain kinds of insurance, such as workers’ compensation when their company has a drug-testing program. Fewer accidents occur when workplaces are drug free and institute random drug screening.
Pre-employment drug screening is also very effective in deterring potentially undesirable employees from entering the industry. Drug users often look for employers without random drug policies and programs. They typically avoid applying to agencies with pre-employment drug testing and/or random tests, knowing that they will not pass the pre-employment test or that they will probably lose their job once an employer tests them. This helps keep the industry drug-free and safe.
The majority of employees in the yachting workforce want a safe and drug-free environment in their communities and in their workplace. Yacht owners, captains and management companies have a choice: to drug test or not to drug test. The evidence is for drug testing is compelling. Pre-employment and the random screening process is easy, quick and affordable. Often the cost for drug screening is absorbed by lower premiums, less absenteeism, employee retention, happy workers and a more productivity and a safer work environment.
There are many types of testing: hair follicle for pre-employment, saliva and/or urine for random on-board testing. Saliva-based testing provides ease of use, tamper resistance and is less invasive for the crew member being tested. This means that it is much less complicated to collect compared to urine, especially on board a vessel.
A proactive approach to random drug testing on yachts allows owners, managers and captains to deter use, manage risk and have peace of mind.
Carmen Foy, owner