3 Best Practices for Effective Drug Testing

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employee drug screening best practices

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 75 percent of substance abusers are employed. This prevalence of substance abusers in the workplace presents many risks to employers.

In addition to safety, legal and regulatory risks, employee substance abuse can decrease productivity and, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, can also increase costs to employers through medical and workers compensation costs.

To help mitigate the risks and costs of substance abuse in the workplace, as well as maintain compliance with industry regulations, many employers include drug testing as part of their employment screening program.

According to the 2012 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 78 percent of survey respondents currently conduct drug screening. However, some of these employers may still be unknowingly exposing themselves to risk with insufficient drug testing programs.

There are several common gaps in drug testing programs that employers should understand. Employers should consider the following three best practices when developing or reviewing their drug testing program:

preemployment drug testing

Source: 2012 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report

1. Increase Reach and Frequency
According to the Benchmarking Report, 90 percent of respondents conduct drug testing for job candidates. However, only 66 percent conduct drug testing on current employees and less than a third test their extended workforce is tested.

Very few employers test volunteers (5%) or vendors (2%). Most drug tests are performed prior to the first day of work (89%) or immediately after the start date (7%). Only 59 percent of employers conduct random ongoing drug testing unrelated to suspicious behavior or incident investigations.

These findings reveal the need for employers to increase the reach and frequency of their drug testing programs. Extended workers, volunteers, vendors and existing employees present the same risks as new hires when it comes to substance abuse. Employers that neglect to test these populations could face increased risks and costs.

In addition to conducting drug testing on the entire workforce, employers should also consider going beyond pre-hire testing by implementing ongoing random drug tests. This will help increase detection of individuals that abuse substances beyond their hire date.

2. Evaluate Testing Methods
Urine testing remains the most popular (95%) drug testing method. By comparison, only 9 percent use saliva and 8 percent use hair testing. Urine testing usually requires a worker to visit an off-site lab or testing facility, thereby increasing test time and costs. Urine tests also offer a limited 72-hour window of detection and the test could be tampered with or adulterated by the worker.

Alternate testing methods like hair and saliva may offer employers additional testing benefits. Both hair and saliva tests are often easier for employers to administer on-site and typically tougher to adulterate. Hair testing can detect substances up to three months, thereby allowing detection of chronic drug use.

Saliva testing offers a 24-hour detection window, which makes it a preferred method for random ongoing drug-screening and screening related to suspicious activity or incident investigations. Employers should consider these alternatives to urine testing, which may help strengthen their drug screening programs.

3. Partner with an Experienced Screening Provider
When implementing a drug screening program, employers need to take precautions to protect their organization against legal and compliance risks. By partnering with a reputable on-demand drug testing provider, organizations can leverage compliance tools and resources to help remain compliant. However, more than half of the organizations polled by HireRight conduct drug screening either directly through drug testing labs or internally, thus potentially exposing themselves to risk.

Only 29 percent of respondents leverage the benefits of working with a third party provider to conduct drug testing. A third party drug testing provider can help an organization to effectively implement its drug testing policy, promote anti-discriminatory random testing, follow state and federal regulations for worker notification and stay abreast of changing legislation such as medical marijuana laws. Look for a drug testing provider with in-house Medical Review Officers, a network of collection sites and electronic chain of custody.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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