Employer Drug Testing – Drug Free Workplace

12 Aug 2015

A comprehensive drug free workplace policy consists of:

  1. Written Policy
  2. Employee Education
  3. Supervisor Training
  4. Drug & Alcohol Testing
  5. Employee Assistance Program

An employer often has a comprehensive substance abuse policy which is designed to contribute to a workplace free of the health, safety and productivity hazards caused by employees’ abuse of alcohol or drugs.  By educating employees about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and encouraging individuals with related problems to seek help, the employer can retain valuable employees and help play a part in making communities safer and healthier.

A drug free workplace program will provide a written policy which clearly outlines our expectations regarding substance abuse; training for supervisors on the signs and symptoms of drug use and their role in enforcing the policy; education for employees about the dangers of substance abuse; and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide counseling and referral to employees struggling with substance abuse problems.

Employee Education: Effective employee education programs provide company-specific information, such as the details of the drug-free workplace policy, as well as generalized information about the nature of alcohol and drug addiction; its impact on work performance, health and personal life; and types of help available for individuals with related problems.  A drug and alcohol education program provides employees with the information they need to fully understand, cooperate with and benefit from their company’s drug-free workplace program.  The entire organization should know about the benefits of the drug-free workplace policy and program.

Employee education programs are available from the Drug Test Consulting Network.

Supervisor Training:  DOT employer are required to have Supervisor Training so supervisors can make reasonable suspicion determinations.  The success of the drug-free workplace policy and program depends to a great extent on supervisors. Supervisors are responsible for implementing many of the drug-free workplace policy and program elements.  

Supervisor Training programs are available from the Drug Test Consulting Network.

There are multiple methods for drug and alcohol testing:

Urine: Results of a urine drug test show the presence or absence of drug metabolites in a person’s urine.  Metabolites are drug residues that remain in the body for some time after the effects of a drug have worn off.  A positive urine test does not necessarily mean a person was under the influence of drugs at the time of the test.  It detects and measures use of a particular drug within the previous few days.   

Breath: A breath-alcohol test is the most common test for finding out how much alcohol is currently in the blood.  The person being tested blows into a breath-alcohol device, and the results are given as a number, known as the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), which shows the level of alcohol in the blood at the time the test was taken.  BAC levels have been correlated with impairment, and the legal limit of 0.08 for driving has been set in all states.  Under DOT regulations, a BAC of 0.02 is high enough to stop someone from performing a safety-sensitive task for a specific amount of time (usually between 8 and 24 hours) and a BAC reading of 0.04 or higher is considered to be a positive drug test and requires immediate removal from safety-sensitive functions.  Under DOT regulations, a person who tests at the 0.04 BAC level may not resume job duties until a specific return-to-duty process has been successfully completed.

Hair: Hair follicle drug testing is becoming more popular.  For DOT urine is still required but many trucking companies do a hair follicle test after the DOT required urine drug test.  Drug and drug metabolite(s) are incorporated into the hair matrix from the bloodstream following drug use. Hair drug testing detects drugs that are embedded in the hair.  Hair growth rates vary; typically, head hair grows at an average of one-half inch per month. Therefore, a 1.5 inch hair sample detects drug use up to 90 days prior to testing.  Hair testing is more expensive then urine drug testing but it gives a much longer lookback period and a great indication of a person’s lifestyle.              

Blood:  A blood test measures the actual amount of alcohol or other drugs in the blood at the time of the test.  Blood samples provide an accurate measure of the physiologically active drug present in a person at the time the sample is drawn. In cases of serious injury or death as the result of an accident, the only way to determine legal intoxication is through a blood specimen.  There is a very short detection period, as most drugs are quickly cleared from the blood and deposited into the urine.  Blood alcohol testing is sometimes performed for non-DOT post accident alcohol testing, typically breath alcohol is used.  Blood drug testing is very expensive and invasive, typically urine or hair testing is used.

Oral Fluids:  Saliva, or oral fluids, collected from the mouth can be used to detect traces of drugs and alcohol.  Oral fluids are easy to collect (a swab of the inner cheek is the most common collection method), harder to adulterate or substitute, and may be better at detecting specific substances, including marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines/methamphetamines.  Because drugs do not remain in oral fluids as long as they do in urine, this method shows promise in determining current use and impairment.   

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a valuable resource for both employees and managers and plays an important role in our substance abuse program. EAP is a worksite-focused program designed to assist in the identification and resolution of productivity problems associated with personal problems, such as alcohol and/or drug abuse.

A drug free workplace program will provide a written policy which clearly outlines our expectations regarding substance abuse; training for supervisors on the signs and symptoms of drug use and their role in enforcing the policy; education for employees about the dangers of substance abuse; and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide counseling and referral to employees struggling with substance abuse problems.