Nationwide Testing Association: Implementing Drug Testing Plans

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A concise and clear drug screening program is very important when it comes to maintaining a drug-free and safe workplace. Substance abuse and impairment on the worksite can lead to higher employee turnover, insurance premiums, absenteeism, increase in workers’ compensation claims, accidents, errors, as well as decrease in worker productivity. 

No matter what industry the company operates, they can directly see an effect that impairment in the worksite can cause. With illicit substance testing programs, companies can define their policies and make sure that their workers abide by these policies.

Address the organization’s needs

When designing a drug screening policy in the workplace, organizations need to understand why they are drug-testing employees in the first place to customize their company policy better. Depending on the industry, certain screening procedures are needed by law. 

It is crucial that companies understand, as well as implement the necessary requirements for safety-sensitive jobs like those enforced by the United States Department of Transportation. Industries like construction, oil and gas, and transportation need stringent illegal substance testing policies since incidents directly related to alcohol and drug use are more dangerous for people working in safety-sensitive positions.

Illicit substance testing

There are various drug screening methods that people can customize to meet their company’s standards, including hair or follicle, urine, expanded opioid, EBAT or Evidential Breath Alcohol Testing, oral fluid, or synthetic screens. In addition to the pre-employment test, some organizations choose to continue the screens throughout a worker’s job. 

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Depending on the employee’s position in the company, some can be industry-specific and needs to be tested. In contrast, others used it as an additional means to help maintain safety in the work area and deter workers from using illegal substances in the first place. Kinds of screening companies may want to include in their policy can consist of:

RTD or Return-to-Duty

Follow-up screening

Reasonable suspicion or Post-accident

Random test


In addition to what type of screening method the organization wants to use, and when they want to do the test, they need to decide which substance they will be screening for. The most common test is a ten-panel urine substance screen with expanded opioids. It includes cannabis, opioids (natural and synthetic opioids), cocaine, barbiturates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, Phencyclidine, methadone, propoxyphene, and methaqualone. 

As the trend in drug-screening changes, such as the prescription medication abuse and opioid epidemic, rise in Cannabidiol oil usage, as well as an increase in synthetic substance popularity, organizations may choose to alter their testing panels accordingly. For these illegal substance test additions, companies can add artificial screening or expanded opioid testing.

A Concise and clear written policy

It is imperative that organizations clearly define their regulations with a concise and clearly written alcohol and drug testing policy. If the firm falls under the safety-sensitive industry, or if they have jobs that are deemed as safety-sensitive, then their policies will also need to include stipulations set by federal regulations like those set by the Department of Transportation for transportation positions with safety-sensitive qualifications. 

With cannabis laws changing by cities or states and opioids being freely prescribed at an increasing and alarming rate, it is a priority to make sure that the policy also abides by city or state laws. They need to consider including medical disclosure policies. 

Click to find out more about opioid misuse.

For people working in a safety-sensitive position, medical disclosure policies help inform organizations when they take prescription medications that could impair them when working. It provides an organization with the ability to remove suspected users from dangerous jobs while they are under the influence, which can harm them while on the job. 

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It gives companies that impairment while working can result in various disciplinary actions, even if they hold valid medical prescriptions. If the policy fails to include, as well as clearly define, various consequences for the worker who tested positive, then the company is setting itself up for possible legal actions. 

If the firm includes job positions that are considered safety-sensitive, and positions that are not, then it is crucial to define differences in qualifications, screening, and procedures for different types of positions, as blanket policies will not cover all qualifications for every worker. The policy needs to define positions that need drug screening and which test they will use or need. 

To make sure that the policy is accurate and meets the necessary compliance, it is best to run the proposed policy by the organization’s legal counsel before publishing. It will make sure that they meet best compliance and practice standards, as well as prevent fines, fees, and lawsuits. 

Educating employees

Once organizations have designed the best policy that suits their needs, they need to make sure that workers are fully aware of the policy and understand their rights in the work area. Employees also need to be educated about the effects of the impairment and drug abuse while on the job, their expectations, and repercussions of impairment while at work, and rules they need to follow. People should also be aware of the indications and signs that another staff may be impaired so that they can inform their supervisor or the upper management.

Training supervisors

Once organizations have implemented policies, firms need to focus on training team leaders, supervisors, and managers to identify warning signs of drug abuse. Training needs to fall under reputable agencies like Nationwide Testing Association, Inc., DER, or Designated Employee Representative, such as staff from the Human Resource department or from safety-management positions.

Implement worker assistance programs

If an individual violates an alcohol and drug program, then an RTD or Return-to-Duty process may be implemented to help them get back on track and return to work. RTD processes can differ by industries and positions but can include the following procedures:

Evaluation with SAP (Substance Abuse Professionals) – These professionals will evaluate the individual face-to-face to understand their usage history and help them get the necessary treatment program or plan.

Immediate removal from the position – It pertains to people working in safety-sensitive positions. If they fail their test, they need to be removed immediately from that position.