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Check Out These Substance Abuse Testing Pointers

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Friday we talked about drug-free workplace programs, issues to consider when creating a program, and federal laws that might apply to such programs. Today, we focus on another important aspect involved in curbing alcohol and drug abuse on the job—alcohol and drug testing.

If you implement a drug and alcohol testing policy, the policy should be written with consideration of the following issues:

When to test. The policy should specify the circumstances under which employees are required to undergo testing to determine whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, an employer may require every employee to undergo such testing for “cause” (i.e., after an accident), or when two supervisors who have been trained to recognize the signs of intoxication believe an employee is under the influence. Employers may choose to implement a random testing policy, or may require employees who have violated the company drug policy to undergo random drug tests in the future. However, note that several states restrict or completely prohibit random testing.

Types of tests. Employers should select from among the various types of tests that may be legally available (e.g., urine, blood, Breathalyzer, hair, saliva).

Who can require a test. The policy should state whether it takes only one supervisor or several managers plus the HR department to make the decision to require the employee to take a medical test.

Applicants. Some employers require applicants, as a condition of hire, to successfully pass a preemployment drug test. Such a test is least controversial when conducted after an offer of employment has been made, and in fact, some states will allow only such applicant testing.

Chain of custody. To use the results of any sample of urine or blood, employers should establish a procedure that ensures that the sample given is the sample tested. Employers may decide to require a sample sufficient to test half of it, preserving the remainder for a later test if the first one is challenged.

Retesting. If the first test is positive, employers should provide an opportunity for a retest. Normally, the first screening test (which is inexpensive) is not very reliable, so a second different, more expensive test should be performed to confirm the results.