In June 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a $584,375 fine to a major commercial airline for failing to perform FAA mandated drug and alcohol testing. The airline had transitioned several employees to safety-sensitive roles, but failed to include those workers in the random drug screening pool that the FAA requires for those types of positions.
According to the article by the Associated Press, the airline was previously warned by federal regulators that its existing drug and alcohol screening process was not using a completely random method to select which employees would be screened.
For federally regulated organizations and other non-regulated industries, an effective random drug and alcohol testing program can help maintain compliance with applicable regulations and mitigate liability and safety risks. Random drug and alcohol testing programs are a critical part of a drug-free workplace policy because they can help to ensure that workers continue to uphold the drug-free standards of the work environment throughout their employment.
Whether your organization maintains a drug-free workplace policy or is required to conduct random drug and alcohol testing by a regulatory agency such as the FAA or Department of Transportation (DOT), it is important to administer the random drug and alcohol testing process properly. A random drug and alcohol testing policy is ineffective if it does not meet best practices and achieve compliance with regulatory standards.
Below are six recommended best practices that employers should consider when implementing or self-auditing a random drug and alcohol testing program. Following these best practices can result in a more successful and compliant random drug and alcohol testing program.
1. Practice True Random Selection
To conduct a truly random drug and alcohol screening test, employers must use a statistically valid random generator. This will ensure that every employee subject to drug or alcohol screening has the same probability of being selected for each individual round of screening.
Even if someone has been selected for the previous two rounds of drug testing, that person should still enter round three of selection with the same probability of being chosen as every other employee.
2. Limit Time Between Notification and Testing
It is crucial to limit the amount of time between when a worker is notified and when that person is tested. If a drug and alcohol screening program runs on a predictable schedule, or a worker is given advanced notice, then it opens up the possibility for workers to take measures to evade detection.
It is recommended that the only amount of time permitted to lapse between notification and testing is the amount of time it takes for the worker to get from the business to the testing clinic. If a worker fails to complete testing within the appropriate window, then it should be considered a refusal to test.
3. Know Your Clinic’s Hours and Policy
Employers and managers who are responsible for drug and alcohol testing notifications should know the testing clinic’s hours and policies. For example, if your testing clinic closes at 5 p.m., it would be ineffective to send an employee over for testing at fifteen minutes before 5 p.m.
Being unfamiliar with the testing clinic’s hours and policies may jeopardize the testing results if there is a time constraint and an employee has a shy bladder or if more than one sample is necessary.
4. Follow State and Federal Regulations
Whether your organization is required to conduct random drug and alcohol testing or chooses to do so, it is vital to follow state and federal requirements.
At the state level, there are varying laws about what kind of drug testing is permissible. In order to remain compliant with federal random drug and alcohol testing regulations and avoid costly fines, an organization must be sure it is meeting the specific standards of the regulating authority, such as the FAA or DOT.
5. Tune Testing to Fit Your Industry
Many organizations will find they have unique testing needs. To get the best results from a random drug and alcohol screening policy, tailor your program to meet those needs.
For example, a health care organization might not have a need to enroll all of its workers in a random drug and alcohol testing program. However, the health care organization may want to enroll safety-sensitive employees and employees with access to particular medications in a random drug and alcohol testing program.
6. Document the Entire Process
Finally, it is vital to document the entire random drug and alcohol testing notification and screening process. Maintaining documentation will better protect your organization in the event of an audit or litigation brought by workers.
If an employee is selected several times for random drug and alcohol testing, that individual may question the randomness of the program and pursue legal action. Having a record of how employees are selected for testing and documenting each step of the notification and screening process will help testify to the statistical validity and fairness of the random drug and alcohol testing program.
Following these six best practices for managing a random drug and alcohol testing program can help organizations to better mitigate the safety, legal and compliance risks associated with drug use in the workplace.
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