Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Human Resources and Safety professionals regard pre-employment drug testing as a critical safety issue in the workplace with most of the Fortune 500 companies doing it. The use of drugs is pervasive in some cultures and extends on to the workplace. This robs companies of millions of hours of productive work and disrupts employee morale.

Companies have a right to expect and obligation to promote a healthy, productive and a safe workplace. The use of drugs and alcohol can adversely affect these interests. Pre-employment drug test is appropriate in this case as it can deter and detect drug use and facilitate rehabilitation. Starting an employee drug testing program is not simple and requires development in accordance with relevant legal requirements. These legal requirements may even vary in their application to particular workplaces. Because these issues are very complex, top management may want to consult lawyers who know about testing before the development of a drug testing program.

A drug testing program can deter people unfit for duty from coming to work and even discourage alcohol and drug abusers from joining the organization in the first place. Drug testing also depends on factors like cost, feasibility and appropriateness. While most drug testing is generally reliable, results that are not accurate may be the result of absence of rigorous procedural and technical safeguards. In an effort to identify those procedural and technical safeguards, the Department of Health and Human Services has developed and published Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. Employers that contemplate testing are urged to adhere to these guidelines as they give an assurance of giving employees and applicants all possible safeguards.

Some of the most frequent reasons employers may have for pre-employment drug testing are:

• Customer or contract requirement compliance

• Federal regulations compliance (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Energy, etc.)

• Minimize chances of hiring employees who may be into drug or alcohol abuse

• Federal and state regulations

Drug test procedures generally have certain minimum criteria that need to be met for the applicant to be in compliance with the rules. Most test procedures screen for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates and PCP (Phencyclidine). All drug testing must be done from urine specimens collected under highly controlled conditions. Specimen collection procedures require a designated collection site, acceptable security for the collection site, chain of custody documentation, use of authorized personnel, privacy during collection, integrity and identity of the specimen, and transportation to the laboratory. Most medical providers generally provide these requirements. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) certifies laboratories that have met all of the guidelines established by the Department of Health and Human Services. This list of NIDA certified laboratories is updated once every month, and this update appears in the Federal Register.

Although in some industries, selective testing may be feasible, it is recommended that pre-employment drug testing be done for all employees including managers, supervisors and administrative personnel.