HR 101: Creating and Implementing A Corporate Drug Testing Program

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  • A clear and concise drug testing program is pertinent to maintain a safe and drug-free workplace. Impairment on the job and substance abuse can lead to higher insurance premiums, employee turnover, absenteeism, an increase in accidents, workers compensation claims, errors, and decreased employee productivity. Regardless of the industry, companies can directly see the impact that impairment in the workplace can cause. With a drug testing program, employers are able to define company policies and ensure that employees abide by them.

Address Your Company’s Needs

When creating a drug testing policy at your workplace, employers need to understand why their company is drug testing in the first place to better customize their policy. Depending on the industry, certain drug testing procedures are required by law. It’s important that employers understand and implement requirements for safety-sensitive positions, such as those enforced by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Industries such as transportation, construction, and oil and gas require stricter drug testing policies as incidents directly related to drug and alcohol use are far more dangerous for those in safety-sensitive positions.

Drug Testing

There are a variety of drug testing methods that you can customize to meet the needs of your company which include urine testing, hair testing, expanded opioid testing, Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing (EBAT), oral fluid testing, and synthetics testing.

In addition to pre-employment testing, some employers choose to continue testing throughout an employee’s job. Depending on the position, some can be industry-specific and are required, while others are used as an additional means to maintain safety in the workplace and deter employees from using drugs in the first place.

Types of testing you may want to include in your policy can include:

  • Pre-employment
  • Random drug testing
  • Post-accident or reasonable suspicion
  • Follow-Up Testing
  • Return-to-Duty (RTD)

In addition to which drug testing methodology you want to use, and when you want to drug test, employers need to decide which drugs they will be testing for. The most common drug test is a 10-panel Urine drug test with expanded opioids. This includes Marijuana, Cocaine, Opioids (including synthetic opioids), Amphetamines, PCP, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Propoxyphene, Methadone, and Methaqualone. As trends in drug testing change, such as the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse, rise in CBD oil usage, and an increase in synthetic drug popularity, employers may choose to alter their panels accordingly. For these particular drug testing additions, employers can add synthetic testing or expanded opioid testing.

Have a Clear and Concise Written Policy

It’s vital that employers clearly define their company regulations with a clearly written drug & alcohol testing policy. If your company falls under the safety-sensitive industry, or if you have positions that are deemed safety-sensitive, then your policy will also need to include requirements set forth by federal regulations, such as those set forth by the DOT for safety-sensitive transportation positions.

With marijuana laws changing by state and opioids being prescribed at an alarming rate, it’s a priority to ensure that your policy also abides by state laws and you should consider including a medical disclosure policy. For those in safety-sensitive positions, a medical disclosure policy helps to inform employers when an employee is taking a prescription that could impair them in the workplace. This gives an employer the ability to remove them from dangerous work while they’re using the potentially impairing prescription. It also informs employees that impairment in the workplace can result in disciplinary action, even if they hold a valid, medical prescription.

If your policy fails to include and clearly define consequences for an employee who tests positive, then you’re setting yourself up for potential legal actions. If your company includes positions which are safety-sensitive, as well as positions that are not, then it is important to also define the differences in requirements, testing, and procedures for the various types of positions, as a blanket policy will not cover all requirements for every employee. Your policy needs to define which positions require testing, and which testing they will need.

To ensure that your company policy is accurate and meets compliance, it’s best to run any proposed policies by your company’s Legal Counsel prior to publishing. This will ensure that you meet best practices and compliance standards, as well as prevent lawsuits, fines, and/or fees.

Educating Your Employees

Once you’ve created your policy, you need to ensure that employees are fully aware of the company policy and understand their rights in the workplace. Employees should also be educated about the impacts of impairment and substance abuse while on the job, repercussions of impairment at work, and their expectations and rules they must follow while employed with the company. They also need to be aware of the signs and indications that another employee may be impaired while at work, so that they can inform a supervisor.

Training Your Supervisors

Once you have implemented a policy, employers need to focus on training their supervisors to identify the warning signs of substance abuse. Training should fall under a Designated Employee Representative (DER), such as someone in Human Resources (HR) or a safety management position. Signs to look for include:

Physical signs

Bloodshot eyes/dilated pupils, slurred speech, unsteady walk, shakes or tremors, unexplained sweating or shivering, fidgeting/inability to sit still, sleeping at work or difficulty staying awake

Behavioral signs

Attendance problems/tardiness, a pattern of absences or excessive absenteeism, a decline in performance/productivity, acting withdrawn from others

Psychological signs

Unexplained changes in personality or attitude, sudden mood changes, angry outbursts or inappropriate laughing, inability to focus or concentrate.

If there is evidence or reasonable cause to suspect an employee of drug use, employers can implement reasonable suspicion testing, also known as for-cause or probable cause testing, to determine if the employee is in fact impaired.

Implement an Employee Assistance Program

If an employee violates a drug and alcohol program, then a Return-to-Duty process may be implemented to help an employee get back on their feet and return to work or get a “second chance” so to say. Return-to-Duty processes can vary by positions and industries, but can include the following procedures:

  • Immediate removal from position– This specifically pertains to those working in a safety-sensitive position. If an employee fails their drug test, then they must be removed immediately from the safety-sensitive position.
  • Evaluation with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)– The SAP will evaluate the employee face-to-face to better understand their history and help them receive treatment and a proper treatment plan or program.
  • Define a treatment program or plan

Follow-Up Testing – This drug and alcohol test is administered throughout the employee’s treatment program and a schedule is usually set by the SAP. The number of tests vary by company. An example would include the DOT’s requirement of six tests over a 12-month period of time.

Return-to-Duty Testing– If the employee successfully completed their program and the SAP feels they are qualified to return to work, then the employer can schedule them for a Return-to-Duty test.

If you need help creating or reviewing a policy for your workplace, DISA can help!

DISA's decades of drug testing compliance experience lead to the creation of several products to help ensure your corporate policies are exactly what you need. Click here to get more information.

Drug & Alcohol Custom Policy Creation

Need a custom policy? DISA can help write a policy that meets your local, state, and federal drug testing requirements.

Drug & Alcohol Policy Reviews

  • Not sure if your policy is meeting local, state, and federal drug testing requirements? DISA can review your policies to make sure.
  • Drug & Alcohol Testing Policy Audits
  • Get audited by DISA BEFORE the DOT starts an audit. We identify problem areas so you can fix them first!

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About DISA Global Solutions

Founded in 1986, 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 check, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.

DISA Global Solutions aims to provide accurate and informative content for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. Always consult with a professional or legal expert.