Workplace Drug Testing Program

Best Practices for a Workplace Drug Testing Program

May 1, 2005

By George Ramos


Over the past two decades, drug testing has become an important safety concern to employers. In a recent survey performed by the American Management Association, 80% of companies reported they test for substance abuse by employees and applicants. It is not only important that companies have their applicants tested for drugs, but it's necessary company wide testing programs are managed in a consistent and compliant manner.

Here are some recommended best practices to help promote and maintain a Drug-free Workplace with workplace drug testing and employee drug testing programs in non-regulated industries.

  1. Substance Abuse Policy
    Establish a standard, mandatory drug screening policy for every employee in your company, from production employees to executives. As an employer it is your obligation establish a drug-free workplace. Substance abusers can cost your organization hundreds to thousands of dollars annually. U.S. Labor Statistics estimate that substance abuse in the workplace costs employers approximately $100 billion annually in lost time, accidents, health care and worker' compensation costs. This figure the losses sustained as a result for theft and dishonest acts.
  2. Medical Review Officer (MRO)
    The MRO is a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) who is an expert in employee drug testing and employee alcohol testing and the application of federal regulations. The Department of Transportation (DOT) require employers to have all "DOT" drug tests reviewed by an MRO, but it is also a best practice to have all "non-DOT" negative results reviewed by an MRO as well.
  3. Mandate a 24-Hour Rule
    For urine testing, create a policy of requiring applicants to visit the testing lab within 24 hours of notification. If an applicant is late or does not report within 24 hours of being instructed to take a drug test, it is a best practice to have them take a hair test instead of urine because most substances begin to dissipate 48 to 72-hours from use. A hair test will detect a substance that has been in the system for between approximately 5 to 90 days!
  4. Require a 2nd Specimen on Dilute Test Results
    A dilute specimen may occur when the donor has consumed an excessive amount of liquid prior to taking the drug. If an applicant submits a dilute specimen they should be instructed not to intake fluids for 2 to 4-hours prior to their second test. If the second specimen is also dilute, the specimen will be reviewed by an MRO to determine if the applicant has any underlying medical conditions, such as Diabetes Insipidus, that are causing the dilute sample. If the MRO confirms that there is no medical reason behind the dilute sample, a hiring decision should be made based on your organizations standard policy.
  5. Go with a Split Specimen
    When opting to use a "split specimen," the specimen is poured into two bottles. If the test result of the primary specimen is positive, the employee may request that the split specimen be tested in a different laboratory to confirm the initial result. The donor generally contacts the MRO associated with the program to request that the split sample be reviewed and tested by an independent laboratory from the laboratory that first tested the specimen. The Department of Transportation requires that all urine collections be performed using a "split sample" collection process, but this is also considered a best practice for all applicants.
  6. Random Drug Testing Program
    Random testing is generally conducted within 1-3 hours of notification of the requirement. Both employee urine drug testing and instant testing methodologies are considered to be best practices for a random drug test as they will both successfully detect the intake of drugs within the recent past (instant tests up to approximately 24 hours prior and urine tests approximately up to 72 hours prior). A hair test would not be a best practice for a random application because it cannot detect recent drug usage.