Best Practices for a Drug-Free Workplace Program

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Drug testing for employment

Over the past decade, drug testing has become an important safety issue in the workplace. In a recent survey conducted by the American Management Association, 80% of companies indicated they test for drug usage by job candidates and/or current employees as part of the employment screening process.

It is not only important that companies have their applicants tested for drugs, but it is critical that corporate testing programs are managed in a consistent and compliant manner.

Below are some recommended best practices for a Drug-free Workplace program (in non-regulated industries):

Establish a Standard Drug Policy

Establish a standard, mandatory drug screening policy for every employee in your company, from clerks to executives. It is your right as an employer to establish a drug-free workplace environment. Drug users can cost your company thousands to millions of dollars a year. U.S. Labor Statistics estimate that drug use in the workplace costs employers $75 billion to $100 billion annually in lost time, accidents, health care and worker’ compensation costs.

Utilize a Medical Review Officer (MRO)

The professional MRO is a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) who is an expert in drug and alcohol testing and the application of federal regulations to the process. It is required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to have all DOT drug tests reviewed by an MRO, but it is also a best practice to have all non-DOT non-negative results reviewed by an MRO.

Mandate a 48 Hour Rule

For urine testing, create a policy of requiring applicants to visit the lab within 48 hours of notification. If an applicant is late or does not show up within 48 hours of being instructed to take a drug test, it is a best practice to have them take a hair test instead of urine since almost all substances begin to dissipate 48 to 72 hours from use. A hair test will detect a substance that has been in the system for between approximately 5 and 90 days.

Go with a Split Specimen

When opting to utilize a split specimen, the specimen is poured into two bottles and shipped in the same container. If the test result of the primary specimen is non-negative, the employee may request that the split specimen be tested in a different laboratory to confirm the initial result.

The donor generally contacts the MRO associated with the program to request that the split sample be reviewed and tested by an independent laboratory from the laboratory that first tested the specimen. The Department of Transportation requires that all urine collections be performed using a split sample collection process, but this is also considered a best practice for all applicants.

Implement a Random Drug Testing Program

Random testing is generally conducted within 2-3 hours of notification of the requirement. Both urine drug testing and instant testing methodologies are considered to be best practices for a random drug test as they will both successfully detect the intake of drugs within the recent past (instant tests up to approximately 24 hours prior and urine tests approximately up to 72 hours prior). A hair test would not be a best practice for a random application as it cannot detect recent intake.

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