Six Steps for Effective Drug Screening

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With new and changing legislation legalizing certain drug use under a variety of conditions, employers are facing new complexities and questions related to building and maintaining an effective workplace drug testing program.

Drug screening is an integral part of a comprehensive background check program and helps organizations improve workforce quality and safety, reduce worker’s compensation and health care costs, and increase productivity.

Here are six best practices your organization should keep in mind when developing a drug testing program.

  1. Establish a Drug Screening Policy
    Developing a written policy and process is critical as it provides a protocol for the organization to follow and makes the procedures transparent to employees. The policy should adhere to all applicable state and federal compliance requirements and should be reviewed by an employment attorney.
  2. Conduct Random Drug Tests
    Drug testing is more effective when used for both pre-employment background check and ongoing employment screening. Ongoing periodic drug testing helps to deter workers from using drugs. Individuals should be selected at random for drug testing and testing should be conducted as soon as possible from the time of notification to minimize the opportunity for tests to be falsified.
  3.  Match Specimen and Testing Method to Business Needs
    Drug testing can be conducted using urine, oral fluid, and hair samples. Organizations should evaluate all three specimen types to determine which will best meet their needs. To decide among testing methods, employers should consider cost, whether testing should be done on or off site, their level of risk tolerance, their priorities for candidate experience, and the length of the drug detection window. For example, when considering pre-employment screening options, hair testing works well since it offers up to 90 days of visibility into the candidate’s drug history. For situations requiring same-day or ongoing screening, urine or oral fluid may be best since it provides a one-week window of detection.
  4. Customize Drug Testing by Industry or Job Function
    Drug testing requirements vary depending on industry and job functions. Positions that involve driving or operating machinery may be more safety-sensitive than administrative roles. In a health care environment, where employees may have access to medications, it’s important to conduct drug tests on all workers with such access on an ongoing periodic basis. Build a testing program that meets your needs and clearly identify in your policy which roles require drug testing.
  5. Document the Process
    Documenting the entire drug testing process is critical to help organizations protect themselves in the event of litigation or a regulatory audit. Your organization should document every step in the process – from notification to results analysis. It’s helpful if your HR Information System creates an automated digital audit trail for every step in the drug screening process since this helps show that your organization is conducting unbiased testing according to your drug testing policy.
  6. Check with Your Insurance Provider for Discounts
    Contact your insurance providers to see if your organization qualifies for rebates based on your drug testing policies. Many worker’s compensation, medical, and liability insurance providers offer incentives for employers that conduct drug screening. In fact, a number of states currently require worker’s compensation insurance providers reward organizations with discounts or rebates if they implement drug testing according to state guidelines.

As you’re building your organization’s drug testing process as part of your overall background check program, following these six steps may help ensure your organization is aligned with industry best practice guidelines.

It’s also critical that you consult with an employment attorney to review your policies to be sure you stay in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws.

A solid drug testing program can reduce costs, enhance productivity, and improve workplace safety. Does your drug testing policy include these six steps?

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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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