What Employers Need to Know About Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing

January 17, 2018

Drug Testing Articles


What to Know About Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing

If your business decides to perform drug testing, there are a few things to know. Here are the facts about workplace drug and alcohol testing.

Workplace drug and alcohol testing should begin in the application process. Employees may also be tested after they join the team if substance use is suspected.

Employers have a lot of options when they choose what to use for their workplace drug and alcohol testing. There are urine, blood, hair, breath, saliva and sweat tests for a variety of substances available.

Using these types of screenings can improve your employee’s safety. It may also have the effect of reducing absenteeism and people being late. In addition, drug testing can qualify you for better insurance rates.

Making sure your employees are functioning in a healthy way is your responsibility as a business owner. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to get testing today.

Types of Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing

A growing number of employers are beginning to recognize the need for workplace drug and alcohol testing. Here is some more information on your options.

Blood Drug and Alcohol Testing

Testing an employee’s blood is the most expensive and invasive way to go about it. It also happens to have the best accuracy. It can detect at the time of testing both the presence of a substance and its metabolites in someone’s blood.

In addition, blood tests can measure the exact amount of a drug or metabolite that is in someone’s system. This can give you an idea of the extent of the problem which can be useful in your treatment or termination debate.

Hair Drug Testing

Hair drug testing is based on the idea that chemicals that enter your body will eventually enter the blood vessels of your scalp. Your hair will filter the metabolites and embed them as a permanent record of drug use.

Unfortunately, hair testing is not flawless. Many people object to this kind of testing because current drug use isn’t the only thing the test is measuring. Certain drugs can be detected months or even years after their use.

These days the majority of workplace drug and alcohol testing is concerned with whether an employee is intoxicated while on the job. This makes past use irrelevant.

If you consider the cost and the length of the hair testing process, you will begin to understand why very few employers go to these lengths (no pun intended) for their workplace drug and alcohol testing.

Mouth Swab Drug and Alcohol Testing

Coming up second only to urine testing in popularity, saliva testing is gaining traction quickly. Employers like that it feels less invasive than a urine test.

However, saliva tests can only be used to detect the very recent use of drugs and alcohol. If too much time passes, the results will become inaccurate.

Urine Drug and Alcohol Testing

Urine drug testing is certainly the most common type. This is logical because urine contains metabolites. A metabolite is a structure that is produced by the metabolism out of every substance a body ingests.

These metabolites use urine as the route for leaving the body and therefore show up on a drug test.

Some methods used to detect metabolites include:

  • Immunoassays
  • Thin Layer Chromatography
  • Gas Spectrometry
  • Mass Spectrometry

Changes Due to Marijuana Laws

Depending on what state you are in, marijuana laws can impact your workplace drug and alcohol testing practices. Most courts still view marijuana as illegal except for medical purposes.

Recently, courts in Massachusettes and Connecticut found that potential employees could legally bring discrimination suits against their potential employers if they have a disability and use marijuana as their medication.

The best way to handle the issue of medical marijuana in the workplace is to decide if someone using marijuana off the clock will affect their work. It is never acceptable for your employees to be intoxicated while they are working, but if personal time use is reasonable then it should be accepted from disabled patients.

Should You Choose Five or Ten-Panel?

There are no set drugs that everyone should be testing for. The choice depends on your profession, state laws and even local and corporate culture.

But there are some common choices that make sense. The standard five-panel drug test looks for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, and PCP. As new marijuana legislation is passed, many employers are choosing to eliminate testing for it on their panels.

Other employers are adding additional tests. If prescription drug use is suspected some companies will test for substances that bring on fatigue. These drugs, even if legally obtained, can impair the ability of a machine operator to do their job.

For those in law enforcement or occupational medicine, a ten-panel drug screening may be necessary. These jobs entail dangerous work and the employees in these positions are responsible for the safety of others, as well as themselves.

When to Test Your Employees

There are certain times when workplace drug and alcohol testing makes sense. These include before you hire someone, after a major accident, randomly, and when you have reasonable suspicion that one of your employees might be using.

Pre-Employment Testing

The drug testing process starts before employment at most businesses. It is best done after a candidate has been selected so that money is not wasted on testing unqualified applicants.

Once you begin this type of testing, you must consistently use it. You can’t test some employees and not others. Otherwise, you might face a discrimination lawsuit.

Post-Accident Testing

If anyone is injured while on the job, workplace drug and alcohol testing should occur. Make sure you test everyone involved in the incident to protect yourself and your company.

Random Testing

Random testing is done unannounced. There are usually local laws governing when this can be done so be sure to check what is allowed in your area.

Reasonable Suspicion Testing

You should have some employees that are trained to identify the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use. Then when you have a reason to test someone, call them in.

Providing Drug and Alcohol Testing

If you are ready to take your workplace safety seriously, then drug and alcohol testing is the best way to go.

Whether you conduct a test before you hire someone, after an accident, randomly, or when you have a reason to be suspicious, you will need testing materials.

Contact us today for the best products available to help you detect substance abuse in your workplace.

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