Industry Insights

HR 101: Your Drug Testing Program is Being Audited, What Now?

Creating a drug testing program is just the first step in maintaining a safer working environment. Proper program management and regularly occurring audits are vital to maintain compliance and best practices. An audit can sound scary and you might feel some anxiety after experiencing or hearing about other companies that went through difficult audits which resulted in fines or lost work. 

If you are participating in a random drug or alcohol testing program, the question isn’t “if,” but “when” you’ll be audited. Audits come in a variety of forms, and from a variety of authorities. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and its many modes require companies with safety-sensitive positions to either store or report statistical data every year. This data is analyzed to determine trends and program shortcomings which can lead to your company being audited. 

Alternatively, your company might work with a third-party auditing agency to maintain compliance or meet an owner-facility requirement. An auditing agency safeguards operators, their employees, contractors, and various industries by helping them maintain a drug-free workplace. These audits ensure that companies are testing in conformity with requirements. For most safety-sensitive industries, contractors are audited to ensure they conform with their operator’s requirements, which are often set in place by the owner-facility. Audits help employers understand what they could be doing better, challenge procedures, and ensure compliance standards. Depending on the industry, audits are performed at different times; for example, some audits are conducted routinely, such as quarterly or monthly for random pool selections and statistics. There is only one part of the process that is under your control, which is how prepared you are.

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If your drug testing program is audited, here are a few things to expect, how you can prepare, and how to maintain industry best practices.


How to Prepare for Audits

When it comes to any type of compliance audit, the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true. Pre-audit preparation will guarantee a smoother ride once it is time for a real audit. DOT audits and Non-Regulated Program audits can vary wildly. Non-Regulated Program audits run by third-party auditing agencies can also vary from company to company or auditor to auditor. Here are some preparation tactics that are true across all programs and auditors:


1. Be Aware.

The best way to prepare your company is to be aware of exactly what the auditing agency’s expectations are. Employers should reach out to the auditing agency and confirm all applicable guidelines and requirements before the audit process ever begins. If something about your program or your statistics looks strange or your company doesn’t seem on track, your awareness will allow you to have the time to reach out, get help, and get you back on the right path.


2. Be Accurate.

Use all available tools and resources to get compliant and track your results. Many third-party administrators offer compliance training, electronic record management software, and even system generated statistical reporting. If your company’s records don’t match what you see in your TPA’s software or on your statistical report, reach out and determine the cause of the apparent mix-up before an auditor ever has to ask you to.


3. Ensure Accessibility.

Throughout the year, ensure that all of your necessary records are easy to access and readily available. If you switched third-party administrators, signed up for the first time, or were part of any other significant business decision, your records might be more confusing to an auditor than you think. Make sure that during each of these business changes your records remain accessible to you, and that you know where and how to retrieve them. If for some reason your records are no longer accessible, get it all in writing. Your TPA should be able to provide you with a paper trail so you can show compliance (or attempts at compliance) in the event of an audit, however, if they cannot, make sure that you always have documentation explaining the causation of any irregularities in your programs data, or the cause of any inaccessible documents.

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DOT Audits

Under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), companies with employees in safety-sensitive positions mandated by the DOT must abide by a specific DOT drug and alcohol testing policy and requirements. Companies must have a Designated Employee Representative (DER) who manages the policy. Typically, the DER is someone in human resources, risk management, safety, or security. Some employers may have both a non-regulated policy, as well as a DOT policy to cover employees who may or may not hold a safety-sensitive position.

Ultimately, DOT auditors are looking to determine if your company is in compliance with the federal regulations of DOT drug and alcohol testing.


DOT auditors check:


Does your company:

  • Have a written DOT-compliant substance abuse policy?
  • Ensure that supervisors are trained via DOT-compliant reasonable suspicion training?
  • Request drug test records from employees’ previous employers?


Are your employees:

  • Given educational materials about substance abuse?
  • Enrolled in a random drug testing program?
  • Recipients of a negative pre-employment test result?


Many other questions may and will be asked. If you are prepared, it should be a breeze. For more information on the DOT’s current drug and alcohol testing requirements, click here.

Non-DOT (or Client Required) Audits

For companies that are not specifically reporting safety-sensitive employee drug-testing data to the DOT it is important to note that the questions asked by a non-DOT auditor will be largely similar, but they can always ask for more. Make sure that you clearly understand what is required by the Third-Party Auditing Agency and prepare by using the tips above.

The costs of non-compliance can be significant, and audits may be scary, but a level-head goes a long way. Preparation is key and as long as you remain aware of what is required and ensure the accessibility and accuracy of your records, your next audit shouldn’t be a painful experience.


For more than 30 years, DISA has been a provider of workplace safety and compliance services. DISA helps companies make more informed staffing decisions by offering a broad array of industry-leading methodologies to make employee screening faster and more accurate. For more information about DISA call 1-800-752-6432 or email sales@disa.com.