Everything You Should Know About Drug Testing In Workplace
Drug testing at workplaces includes the process of testing the current and prospective employees of an organization against any illicit drug use. It is an effective way to know a new employee has consumed any illegal drugs or alcohol recently. However, employers must make the employees aware of the process and obtain their approval with a clear written policy. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you must be aware of the procedures involved and policies related to drug testing at the workplace. That may help in carrying out an effective drug testing process.
We shall discuss everything you should know about the drug testing process in the workplace in this article. It includes details like methods, reliability of the tests, etc.
On-site drug testing
On site drug testing includes testing the employees in the physical workplace. The collection process in on-site drug testing usually occurs in two ways. The company staff trained and qualified to administer the collection process of the samples handle sample collection. However, if neither of the staff members has training as a collector, then a third-party collector from a professional testing agency arrives at the workplace. They administer and collect the samples of employees. The collector either conducts mobile operations such as from a van or uses the company’s restroom. It is an effective way as employees do not have to travel to collection sites or testing agencies.
Off-site drug testing
In off-site drug testing, the prospective candidates and the employees must travel to a specified collection site and handover the sample. This way of drug testing may be time-consuming and not that efficient. The challenges of off-site drug testing are, having the employees take the drug test. Most of the time, employees may postpone the process even if they haven’t consumed alcohol or other illicit drugs. Busy schedules and procrastination maybe some of the reasons delaying the process when opted for off-line drug testing.
Reliability of the drug testing
The most used method of drug testing is urinalysis and is highly reliable. However, since most drug tests screen for only five substances and alcohol, their efficiency may be questionable. These screens may result in false-positive results with a probability of 10 to 30%. The confusion among similar compounds is the main reason for such false-positive test results. For instance, an Advil may show up as positive for marijuana use. Similarly, a Nyquil for any amphetamine use and the results may be false-positive for heroin use, for Vicks Formula 44.
Drug testing procedure
Here are the specific procedures involved in drug testing, from sample collection to testing and reporting the result. According to SAMHSA(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines, the following procedures are mandatory.
- Chain of Custody: The chain of custody is a form that depicts the entire process of storage and handling of the sample during the testing process. It has details about each task from the time of collection till the disposal. The details of the individual to whom the sample belongs are also mentioned in the chain of custody form.
- Split Sample: Here’s the most crucial stage of the drug testing process. The testing laboratory will split the urine sample provided by the individual into two. They use one of the samples for the initial screening process. If the initial screening results are positive, then the second sample is used for a confirmation test. All drug tests should follow the "split sample" method according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug-testing rules.
- Initial screen: The first and foremost test or screening for compounds present in illegal drugs is the initial screen. As mentioned above, the lab performs a confirmation test, if the initial screen results are positive. However, the individual can also request the confirmation test to be done by other laboratories when the initial screen results are positive.
- Confirmation Test: Once the initial screen results are positive, the testing lab or agency carries out a detailed confirmation test to prevent false-positive results. The methods used in the confirmation test are mass spectrometry/ gas chromatography.
If the initial screen and confirmation test results are positive, then a medical review officer (MRO) will review the test results and chain of command thoroughly. The MRO will then contact the individual to confirm whether prescription drugs are the reason for positive test results. If yes, and the individual presents a valid doctor’s prescription for any such drugs and has taken them in adequate amounts, the MRO will report the drug test results negative.
Access to the results of the drug test
Here’s another crucial piece of information to know about the drug testing process at the workplace. The drug test results may fall under the category of “personal health information.” That means sharing such information with others may involve several complications. Therefore, employers ensure that all employees sign a release form during drug testing to obtain the drug testing results.
Drug testing is one of the primary measures that help achieve a drug-free environment at the workplace. However, clear written policies against drug use, supervisor training against the symptoms, and signs of drug use are some of the preventive measures that are also helpful. Educating the employees against the hazards of various drugs and an effective Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help employees dealing with drug abuse and addiction will further help employers maintain a drug-free environment.