News

DOT Guidelines for Drug and Alcohol Testing During COVID-19 Outbreak

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to affect our businesses, jobs, and daily lives, DISA Global Solutions is closely monitoring the situation and ensuring that our customers receive the most up-to-date and accurate information as it becomes available. Despite the situation, safety is paramount, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued guidance for employers to continue drug and alcohol testing to meet compliance standards.

With widespread concerns about COVID-19 and the public health, the DOT has provided guidelines to clarify testing requirements and expectations. As outlined by the DOT, the guidance states the following expectations for DOT-regulated employers, employees, and state agencies:

“For DOT-Regulated Employers:

  • As a DOT-regulated employer, you must comply with applicable DOT training and testing requirements. However, DOT recognizes that compliance may not be possible in certain areas due to the unavailability of program resources, such as collection sites, Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT), Medical Review Officers (MRO) and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP). You should make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources. As a best practice at this time, employers should consider mobile collection services for required testing if the fixed-site collection facilities are not available.
  • If you are unable to conduct DOT drug or alcohol training or testing due to COVID-19-related supply shortages, facility closures, State or locally imposed quarantine requirements, or other impediments, you are to continue to comply with existing applicable DOT Agency requirements to document why a test was not completed. If training or testing can be conducted later (e.g., supervisor reasonable suspicion training at the next available opportunity, random testing later in the selection period, follow-up testing later in the month), you are to do so in accordance with applicable modal regulations. Links to the modal regulations and their respective web pages can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/agencies
  • If employers are unable to conduct DOT drug and alcohol testing due to the unavailability of testing resources, the underlying modal regulations continue to apply. For example, without a “negative” pre-employment drug test result, an employer may not permit a prospective or current employee to perform any DOT safety-sensitive functions, or in the case of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), you cannot hire the individual (See 14 CFR § 120.109(1) and (2)).
  • Additionally, DOT is aware that some employees have expressed concern about potential public health risks associated with the collection and testing process in the current environment. Employers should review the applicable DOT Agency requirements for testing to determine whether flexibilities allow for collection and testing at a later date.
  • As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i). However, as the COVID-19 outbreak poses a novel public health risk, DOT asks employers to be sensitive to employees who indicate they are not comfortable or are afraid to go to clinics or collection sites. DOT asks employers to verify with the clinic or collection site that it has taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Employers should revisit back-up plans to ensure the plans are current and effective for the current outbreak conditions. For example, these plans should include availability of collectors and collection sites and BAT, and alternate/back-up MRO, as these may have changed as a result of the national emergency. Employers should also have regular communications with service agents regarding the service agent’s availability and capability to support your DOT drug and alcohol testing program.

For DOT-Regulated Employees:

  • If you are experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms, you should contact your medical provider and, if necessary, let your employer know about your availability to perform work.
  • If you have COVID-19-related concerns about testing, you should discuss them with your employer.
  • As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i).

For Service Agents:

  • As a collector, BAT, laboratory, MRO, or SAP, you should continue to provide services to DOT-regulated employers if it is possible to do so in accordance with State or local mandates related to COVID-19. Should you have concerns about COVID-19 when testing or interacting with employees, please follow your company policy, directions from State and local officials, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

What DISA Is Doing to Help

Although we are facing challenging times, safety is still the utmost priority. As many of our customers must comply with DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements, DISA has spent significant time and effort reworking our collection site processes to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure for our customers. DISA has further implemented safety procedures to enhance the overall experience for our donors during this time. As of March 18, DISA collection sites:

  • Require donors to fill out an initial risk survey when entering the facility
  • Allow donors to wait in their cars until it is their turn to maximize social distancing and prevent crowded waiting rooms
  • Enhanced cleaning procedures of all facilities

DISA offers a large fleet of mobile units and collectors if you prefer on-site collections to come to your location. By utilizing on-site testing, not only will you be reducing downtime by keeping your employees in the field working, but it can offer a more controlled environment with fewer donors in one spot to enhance social distancing practices. COVID-19 has caused a lot of companies to change their standard practices and adhere to new ways of doing things, one of which is DOT drug and alcohol drug testing. By choosing DISA’s mobile options, you’re providing your employees with a much safer, cleaner, and private means of testing.

While some companies might be trying to reduce or slow testing, the DOT and DISA are ensuring that adequate safety standards are met while the transportation industry continues to operate efficiently during this national emergency. The cost of a single incident still greatly outweighs the cost of continuing to implement a strong employee screening program. Increased costs due to employee drug use and abuse include:

  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Increased accident rates
  • Increased workers compensation claims
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Higher absenteeism
  • Lower productivity
  • Increased errors

Safety-sensitive industries have higher occurrences of both fatal and nonfatal accidents and industries. The trucking industry alone has experienced a 40% higher rate of nonfatal occupational injuries in 2016 than the total employees in all industries across the U.S. While employees are out on the roads ensuring that COVID-19 supplies and necessities are being delivered, it’s vital that employers maintain compliance standards with the DOT. By committing to public safety, employers can prevent potential lawsuits, risks, fines, and fees, while also maintaining flexibility and testing adjustments during this unprecedented time.

Helpful Links:

About DISA Global Solutions

Founded in 1987, DISA is the industry-leading provider of employee screening and compliance services. Headquartered in Houston, with more than 35 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, DISA’s comprehensive scope of services includes drug and alcohol testing, background screening, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.