Do Electrical Lineman Get Drug Tested? (3 Minute Answer)

Turning up to any job under the influence of drugs or alcohol isn’t likely to help your chances of gaining promotion and most likely going to result in being frog-marched out the door by an overzealous security guard pleased at having something to do.

Whilst it may be career-ending for office workers to turn up to work intoxicated, the repercussions for those in the construction industry, particularly those in the high voltage distribution side of the business, could be far worse resulting in serious injury or even death.

As an electrician I have been subject to random workplace drug and alcohol testing on multiple occasions, although I assumed this is the same for my high voltage colleagues I decided to do a little research and ask them, do electrical lineman get drug tested?

Do Electrical Lineman Get Drug Tested?

Electrcial linesmen are subject to regular and random drug and alcohol testing. The power distribution industry has very strict health and safety guidelines and drug and alcohol testing forms a vital function in the battle to keep accident rates at work down.

With such a high level of responsibility, linesmen working on voltages measured in the tens or hundreds of thousands of volts (for reference, the typical voltage in a household is 230 volts) having a linesman on anything other than their A game is a recipe for disaster.

Being a power lineman is known to be a very stressful and dangerous job. During storms and power outages linesmen can be working day and night with limited rest. Performing under these harsh conditions is difficult at the best of times.

When we have an industry that reloves around groups of mostly men working away from home, living out of suitcases and working in remote locations, the temptation to have a few too many drinks in the hotel the night before is a very real danger.

This is not just true for electrical linesmen but the construction industry as a whole. Its widespread practice now within the construction industry for drug testing during the site induction and at random intervals (in my experience these random intervals often fall on a Monday morning first thing)

How Often Do Electrical Lineman Get Drug Tested?

Electrical linesman are often drug tested as part of the site induction all new construction workers entering a site must take. What was once a rare occurrence is becoming common practice, especially on larger construction sites.

Electrical linesmen are also tested at random intervals by their company or any company that they are sub-contracting to. How often the tests are carried out is company dependent but it seems that about once a year is becoming the go-to standard.

As well as random testing, electrical linesman, like other construction workers, are often subject to ‘just cause’ testing. This means that alongside random testing and testing to enter a new construction site, employers maintain the right to drug and alcohol test their employees if they have reason to believe they are under the influence whilst at work.

How Are Electrical Linesman Drug Tested?

Electrical linesman are drug and alcohol tested by being asked to provide a saliva swab, urine sample or a combination of both. Linesman, like any construction worker, asked to provide a sample for drug testing can refuse to provide a sample but this is usually taken as grounds for refusing entry to the site or dismissal from employment.

The drug tests I have taken in my career are fairly quick and easy and whilst they may represent a minor annoyance at the time they really are pretty easy. Only those who know they are at risk of failing tend to get upset by the experience.

Type of Drug Test UsedDrug Test Procedure
Saliva SwabThe saliva swab involves placing a large cotton swab in your mouth for around five minutes (not the nicest experience in the world as it dries out all your saliva) and then placing the swab in a test tube which gives an instant result.
Urine TestA urine test involves going into a separate toilet and peeing into a bottle. All water sources such as the taps and flush are sealed shut preventing use. This bottle contains a test strip on the side that can be read for an instant result.
Breathalyser TestI’ve also been subject to random breathalyser testing when entering a site. This was especially common on an oil refinery job I worked on for several months. The breathalyser is the same as you see roadside police using, and again provides instant result
Table showing the different methods used to drug test electrical linesman

More info and images on the drug tests can be found in the article here.

Final Thoughts

I have personally witnessed construction workers failing the pre-screening drug tests during a site induction after a heavy weekend. I have also heard of workers who have visited Amsterdam on a weekend (where marijuana use is legalised) and then failed the drug test when they return to work Monday morning – and were dismissed.

Anyone working in the construction industry in today’s modern era, particularly those working for large utility companies on the power distribution side of things, must expect drug and alcohol testing at any time. Some may consider one of the cons of being a power lineman but ultimately the rules are in place to protect everyone working in a dangerous industry

Whilst some may view this as big brother-ish and a step too far in not allowing workers to keep private and work life separated, others view drug testing as a vital tool to keep construction workers safe.

Sometimes people need rescuing from themselves. A worker failing a drug test and being dismissed from their job may not be pretty to watch and certainly no one with any heart relishes in the site, but if that’s what it takes to keep the rest of the team safe then it is the only way to go.

In my opinion drug testing for electrical linesmen and construction workers is certainly here to stay and in my experience only going to become even more common.

Dave Nicholas

I have worked as a professional electrician for many years and like to use my experience to help others in any little way I can.

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