Last updated: January 18, 2021
Why is drug testing in general, and more importantly, random drug testing, important for employers? The Department of Labor reported that in 2014 nearly two-thirds (65%) of on-the-job injuries were related to drug and alcohol abuse; 38-50% of workers’ compensation claims for an employer related to these claims. Employers in industries that require situational awareness and attention to detail, particularly construction, mining, and transportation (where heavy equipment and machinery is being operated) may be more susceptible to increases in worker’s compensation insurance premiums without the presence of some form of deterrent to on-the-job drug use or impairment.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), along with the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) in their SHRM/DATIA poll titled Drug Testing Efficacy, found that more than half of U.S. companies surveyed (57%) perform some type of pre-employment drug testing, and one-third of those companies also conduct random drug testing of their employees on a periodic basis during their length of employment.
Drug testing conducted on a pre-employment (before an applicant’s hire) and random (after an individual has been hired) basis are used to detect the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
Such tests may be administered in any of the following manners:
- Urine—a prospective or current employee provides a urine sample that is tested for the presence of drugs.
- Breath—a breathalyzer device is used by an administrator to register the subject’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
- Hair—a more reliable indicator of the presence of drugs (not alcohol) in a person’s bodies; tests may detect usage as far back as 3 months prior to the administration of the test.
- Oral fluid—a sterile gauze swab is used to collect a saliva sample to detect the presence of drugs and alcohol in the system.
The test is conducted on-site and in the presence of a designated collection specialist, who collects the results, placing them in a sealed package witnessed and acknowledged by both the administrator and the subject, which is then sent to a testing facility for results.
How random drug testing works
When an employee is notified that they’ve been randomly selected, they must go to the collection site immediately. Since USAMDT sets up a collection site at your location or any location of your choice, there is minimal downtime, and employees don’t have the opportunity to cheat the test. Results can be obtained from urine, saliva, or even hair samples, so we can conduct random drug testing anywhere, even if privacy is not available. It’s important to note that time spent taking a mandatory drug test is considered working hours under the Fair Labor Standards Act, so employees must be paid for that time.
We also work from a computer-generated selection pool to prevent any tampering or “favors” that might enable someone to avoid drug testing.
Drug tests conducted under guidelines set forth by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can identify the use of the following drugs:
- PCP (Angel dust)
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Bath salts
- Synthetic marijuana (K2 / spice)
- Rohypnol (Roofies)
The purpose for random drug testing
Random drug testing may be conducted by an employer, as stated by DATIA, simply to determine if an employee is using drugs. The random nature of the testing ensures a greater accuracy in testing results, preventing pool subjects from using masking agents, broadly marketed and generally available online, that are designed to defraud drug tests, although these agents are ineffective.
Employers are required to set forth well-written and communicated drug policies in the workplace that are widely disseminated to employees and discussed. There are no specific standards for private employers to implement such policies, except where a company is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), or provides security-sensitive work under contract with the Federal government, making such company subject to the requirements of the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program.
Those employers that are especially engaged in manufacturing, construction, mining, and transportation services, as well as some form of public safety (e.g. private security firms) are well-advised to consider the benefits of random drug testing. Establishing workplace policies that, at a minimum, are based on the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program, setting in place well communicated standards and expectations for employees to read and understand, and having in place accessible employee assistance programs necessary to provide counseling or needed services to those in need, not only help make the workplace safer and more productive, it can also protect you from any legal liability arising from a necessary termination of employment for policy violations.