Hair testing can be conducted using a 5-panel or 10-panel test. While less commonly requested, hair testing offers one significant advantage that other testing methods do not. Hair testing provides approximately ninety days of drug use history versus urine and oral fluids, which provide approximately two to three days of “look-back.”
In addition, the collection process for hair testing is quick (no waiting for a shy bladder), does not tie up a restroom and is convenient if a gender-neutral testing environment is needed or desired. It is also nearly impossible to beat or cheat a hair test. The cost is slightly more than urine and saliva testing, and the lab analysis takes approximately three days and only a small sample of hair is needed from the head, leg, arm, underarm or facial hair. There is not an instant testing option for hair.
There is one extremely important factor that must be considered when deciding whether or not to use hair testing in your company’s drug-free workplace program. The goal of a drug-free workplace is to determine if someone could currently be under the influence (such as post-accident or reasonable suspicion testing). The same holds true when someone is randomly selected in the random drug testing program. Employing the use of hair testing in any of these scenarios could detect drug use that took place weeks or months ago, which may be irrelevant relative to the job. In the workplace, hair testing is best used, and recommended, for pre-employment testing. If your goal is not to hire a drug user, hair testing an applicant will help you achieve that goal. Hair testing is also commonly used in court cases, such as custody or probation situations, to ensure that the individual is adhering to their program.
Be sure to check the requirements of your program if your company is in a BWC state program, such as the Drug-Free Safety Program (which only allows urine testing).