Last updated: April 6, 2020
Do you want to ensure a safe and drug-free workplace? Drug testing can help you accomplish exactly that so that you can improve workplace safety, increase productivity, and you may even receive a discount on your workers’ compensation insurance. Thirteen states offer the incentive and the savings range from four up to ten percent.
We provide a wide range of drug screening services that enable you to screen out new employees who use drugs, discourage current employees from using drugs, and identify those who do. All while maintaining compliance with DOT regulations if you’re regulated or just freeing you up to focus on other aspects of your business if you’re not.
And unlike old-fashioned labs, we’re available 24/7. And, we come to your location to minimize downtime. When we’re managing your entire program, you enjoy all of the benefits without having to deal with the administrative details. With USAMDT in charge, you can be sure employee drug testing gets done on time, every time, no matter where your employees are or when you need them tested.
No more interrupting the night shift’s sleep cycle to report to a testing facility during normal business hours. Never again will you pull a worker off-site for a drug test leaving the crew a man short. We roll up on-site—no matter where it is—totally prepared to professionally administer the test.
Who should drug test?
Drug abuse is spiraling out of control across the nation. The opiate crisis has added fentanyl to its list of horrors as the number of deaths due to overdose of the drug is on the rise. Heroin use is becoming even more widespread as addicts seek the cheapest alternative to feed their addiction when their drug of choice becomes too expensive. Methamphetamine use is destroying lives in small-town communities and in cities across the country.
Employers who want to ensure the safest work environment possible ban drugs and alcohol from the premises. Implementing drug testing policies and procedures takes things a step further.
It’s an excellent deterrent.
Overall, there are two types of employee drug testing categories. Mandated testing and non-mandated testing. Those regulated by the federal or state government, for example, the DOT (Department of Transportation), must adhere to drug testing policies to remain in compliance. Employers of the general workforce, however, also recognize the benefit of employee drug testing.
DOT drug testing
Currently, the DOT drug test consists of a urine drug test. They added an extended opiate panel to the 5 panel test in January 2018. This was in a direct effort to combat the raging opioid epidemic gripping our nation.
The DOT drug test identifies the following drugs:
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Adding the extended opiate panel was just the beginning of upcoming changes in the DOT’s drug testing plans. They entered a request to officially switch from the urine test to the hair follicle test last year. It’s currently making its way through the system. Those in the know predict it will not be much longer before the process is complete.
Furthermore, the FMCSA Clearinghouse officially opens for business on January 6, 2020. Employers need to register before then because from that day forward regulations require them to submit a query on all potential new drivers before hiring them. The query searches for unresolved drug and alcohol violations.
If information is discovered, the company may not hire the driver until the issue is resolved. Employers can assign their C/TPAs to act on their behalf. Employers must continue to contact previous employers as always, however, after January 6, 2023, employers will only need to access the Clearinghouse.
There may be one last change on the DOT drug testing horizon. The HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) approved the oral fluids test as an accepted alternative to the urine test. Federal entities may begin using this method on January 1, 2020. It’s not clear at this time if the DOT plans to incorporate this test method into their drug testing regulations.
Drug testing in the general workforce
Employers not regulated by the DOT or another Federal or State entity also realize the value of enforcing a drug-free workplace. We mentioned above that several state programs offer workers’ compensation discounts as an incentive for employers.
That’s because fewer accidents occur within companies that drug test their employees.
Stating the facts
Statistics show that employee drug use consistently costs employers billions of dollars each year. Employees who use drugs are absent more often, less productive, and are at higher risk of being involved in an accident.
An employer’s responsibility lies in providing a safe work environment for everyone they employ. Furthermore, they’re responsible for the products they manufacture, services they provide, goods they deliver, and for the safety of every person that comes in contact with their employees from point A to point B.
Drug abuse in the workplace affects the user’s motor and thinking skills. Delayed reactions can have catastrophic consequences in some manufacturing situations. Dozing on the job because your “meds” kicked in could have a devastating outcome under some conditions as well.
Unfortunately, there is a multitude of scenarios that can be described by linking accidents and drug use. The point is that they do happen and they can result in life-changing events not only for the employee and his family but anyone near them at the time—and their families—as well.
Drug testing laws
No state entirely bans an employer from drug testing employees, however, some do issue stipulations that must be followed to remain in compliance with state law.
Marijuana legalization can be used as a blatant case in point.
Legalization at the highest level may not bode well…
Pending legislation, if passed into law, will allow the Federal Government to remove marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. This would totally leave regulation to the individual states and for employers…
Therein lies the rub.
Employers who operate in multiple states must ensure compliance in regard to marijuana drug testing in each state. The least of their worries may be the fact that they’ll likely never be able to incorporate a uniform drug testing policy for the entire company!
Furthermore, employers within states that have legalized marijuana are already receiving flack from advocates for legalization. They want marijuana testing removed from company drug tests entirely because there is no test for current impairment. Drug tests identify drug metabolites rather than the parent drug.
In the case of marijuana, the metabolites remain in the system long after the period of impairment passes. Advocates feel it’s unfair for employers to penalize workers for having the drug in their system. Their argument, of course, is that the employee or employee prospect may have used it days or even weeks before the test!
They’re making headway
Both New York City and the State of Nevada will begin enforcing a law banning employers from including marijuana on their pre-employment drug tests beginning in 2020. Thankfully, both have left safety carve-outs in place to allow continued testing for some professions. In addition, employers are encouraged to take advantage of the safety carve-out by going over all job descriptions. If they’re able to attach a necessity for drug testing from a safety standpoint, it could be beneficial.
But, what if the federal ban on marijuana use is lifted and not all states are as safety conscious in creating their laws?
It can happen sooner than we think. The House Judiciary Committee passed the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) on November 20, 2019. They debated for little more than two hours before putting it to a vote.
Advocates hope it passes through the Senate just as speedily.
Others aren’t as enthusiastic.
We need a test for current impairment
All in all, a test identifying current impairment will surely make marijuana legalization less of an issue in the workplace. If employers have the ability to determine an employee is influenced by the drug at the moment, they can deal with the drug as they do alcohol.
Even though alcohol’s a legal drug, there are carve-outs, otherwise known as boundaries, surrounding it. The fact that it’s banned from the workplace is common knowledge. The breathalyzer allows employers to accurately determine if someone is under the influence.
A marijuana breathalyzer will do the same.
Studies show that marijuana can be detected on the breath for approximately the same amount of time that one is impaired by its use. That said, scientists have been working feverishly to create a machine similar to the alcohol breathalyzer. In fact, Hound Labs actually has one in the final stages of field testing! It’s expected to be available in 2020.
We’ll keep you posted.
When to drug test
If regulated by the DOT, employers follow strict guidelines in regard to employee drug testing. Many employers of the general workforce mimic those guidelines when creating their own drug testing policies and procedures.
However, there are many reasons for workplace drug testing. USAMDT offers a program that customizes your drug testing policies and procedures to meet your specific needs. We’ll help you write and then implement your policies. We even provide employee education and staff training at your request.
We provide testing services for:
- Pre-employment drug testing
- Random drug testing
- DOT drug testing
- Mobile drug testing
- Emergency drug testing
- Mobile alcohol testing
- Reasonable suspicion drug testing
- Post-accident drug testing
- Return to duty drug testing
- Probation drug testing
Some states put limitations on employee drug testing including banning certain test methods in some cases.
Drug testing methods
We can administer drug tests using several different methods, depending on your circumstances. Each method has pros and cons, and you should speak to one of our specialists to determine which is best for you.
All test samples undergo an initial screen. The immunoassay (IA) test determines a positive or negative result. The majority of drug tests are negative and this cost-efficient test saves employers money because negative means negative.
Tests registering a positive result go on for confirmation testing. The gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test confirms the positive result by identifying the drug and the level contained in the specimen.
The industry standard is a urinalysis. (This is currently the only method the DOT will accept.) Urinalysis is fast, easy, and inexpensive, but it does come with a few drawbacks.
You need to secure a private restroom, disable the sink and toilet, and place a bluing agent in the water in the toilet bowl. Privacy concerns may also present an issue because a test must be conducted by an administrator of the same sex. In addition, the privacy factor also provides an opportunity to attempt to cheat the test by adding adulterants or substituting the specimen entirely. However, technological advances in both testing and lab equipment make it increasingly difficult for dishonest employees to succeed.
This test method identifies drugs from about a half-hour of ingestion up to a few weeks after discontinuing use. Chronic marijuana use is an exception to the rule. Users can test positive for over thirty days!
Employers receive test results in a few days.
Oral fluid / mouth swab
This method of drug testing is relatively newer, yet is still just as accurate as urinalysis. It’s also just as fast, easy, and inexpensive. It offers the shortest window of detection though. Still, it identifies most drugs within minutes of use. It only identifies drugs for a period of up to 72 hours prior to the test.
The biggest advantage of mouth swab drug testing is that it can be administered literally anywhere—even in plain sight of other employees because it only requires placing a mouth swab containing the test between the lower cheek and gum. The employee holds it in place until saturated. The process rarely takes more than 5 minutes.
Results are received in just a couple of days.
Because it detects recent drug use, it’s becoming a popular choice for random drug testing. In fact, the HHS (The Health and Human Services Administration) approved the use of this test as an alternative drug testing method for all federally mandated employers beginning on January 1, 2020.
At this time, it’s unclear whether or not the DOT will incorporate the test into its policies and procedures.
The less common hair follicle drug testing method offers the same convenience of oral fluid, but it can be more expensive. The fact that it offers a 90 day period of detection overrides the added cost in the eyes of more and more employers. In fact, the DOT officially requested that the hair test replace the urine drug test. The request is passing through the chain-of-command and many expect to hear the final word soon.
This test requires the administrator to clip a small (less than 1” wide) section of hair, ideally from near the base of the scalp, and secure it in a zipper-lock plastic bag. While this testing method is simple and convenient, some employees may have an issue with having their hair cut. No worries. Body hair can be used instead and is tested by volume rather than length. Administrators gather enough hair to equal the size of a cotton ball, it’s about an inch in diameter.
This method has a longer detection window than using head hair, it’s right at a year.
The hair test doesn’t detect current impairment or recent drug use.
About detection windows
We’ve determined that the identification period differs among the test methods. And, also, that the type of drug, itself, determines how long it remains in the system.
There are other factors that come into play.
- Dosage and frequency of use
- Body Mass Index
- Age and overall health
When the results are in
All of our drug tests provide you with uniform results.
- Positive—indicates drug identification
- Negative—no drug identification
- Inconclusive—could not determine a positive or negative result
Inconclusive results are most often found in urine drug test results. We mentioned that attempts to falsify tests are met with the sophistication of technology. An inconclusive result notes any found adulterants, a diluted test specimen, as well as a number of other methods used to try and mask drug use.
It’s a rare occurrence for hair and oral fluid tests to yield inconclusive results. However, human error can’t be overruled.
What drugs can be tested for / identified
Whether using urinalysis, mouth swab, or hair, we’re able to test for and identify virtually any type of drug, both prescription and illicit, including:
- PCP (Angel dust)
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Bath salts
- Synthetic marijuana (K2 / spice)
- Rohypnol (Roofies)
We have a variety of ready-made test panels available as well.
However, employers aren’t limited to using the drug panels found on our standard tests. You’re free to replace any panels with those of your choosing. You can extend the number of drugs identified by including additional panels. Creating a unique test panel from scratch is an option too.
- We’ll note that manufacturers aren’t regulated to a “standard” list for their ready-made drug tests. While some drugs are likely to be included on all tests, some may not be.
Do you have a drug-testing policy?
Employers drug test their employees in an effort to keep their work environments as safe as possible. If you haven’t established your company as a drug-free workplace and want to do so, we can help.
We’ll help you set things up and can keep them running smoothly.
What’s more, rather than having your employees report to off-site facilities, we can accommodate your schedule and roll up on-site anytime, day or night.
Is it true that I can use the mouth swab test instead of the urine drug test for federally regulated testing after the first of the year?
While the HHS approved the test, it’s not automatically a go for everyone under federal regulation. The DOT, for instance, has the opportunity to offer the oral fluids test as an alternative to the urine test but hasn’t announced plans to do so.
What if I don’t get registered for the Clearinghouse by January 6th?
If you’re an employer, you’ll be out of compliance. If you’re a driver and wind up needing to consent to a full query within the 24-hour deadline, not being registered could hamper getting your consent and query submitted in time. That means you get pulled from duty in the interim.
Can mouth swab tests really detect current impairment?
Yes. They identify most drugs within minutes of use, however, there’s no way to determine if the user is currently impaired or if the test is registering drug metabolites still retained in the body…
Can I use different test methods for different types of employee drug testing?
Yes. For instance, many employers reserve the blood test for post-accident situations because it detects current impairment by identifying the parent drug rather than drug metabolites. Moreover, some employees only use the mouth swab test for random drug testing.
Will the hair test get less expensive if the DOT makes it the required test method?
That remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a possibility.
If marijuana is removed from the controlled substance list, do we have to remove it from company drug tests?
Not unless the state requires it.
Doesn’t having a medical marijuana card protect me if I fail a drug test for work?
Not in the majority of cases. You should check the laws in your state to know for certain and make an informed decision as to whether or not the benefits of use outweigh the risk of possibly losing your job.