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When Should You Drug Test?

A drug-testing program is one of the steps of a comprehensive employee drug-free workplace program. You should have in place a comprehensive program which includes: a written policy statement, a supervisory training program, an employee education and awareness program, and an employee assistance program. You will need to make sure that your drug-testing program meets several requirements including:


  • Statutory or regulatory requirements
  • Disability discrimination provisions
  • Collective bargaining provisions
  • Any other requirements in effect

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires any organization which receives a contract of at least $25,000 from any federal agency to certify that it will provide a drug-free workplace.


The Federal Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires alcohol and drug testing of employees in a safety-sensitive position (aviation, motor carrier, railroad, mass transit). Employers covered by the law must provide alcohol and drug prevention programs


Getting Started

You need to make a number of decisions about how your program will be set up and operated. The list of questions below will help you get started:


Drug Screening Questions

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  • Who will be tesed?

  • When will you test?

  • For what drugs will you test?

  • How frequently will you test?

  • What will you do if an applicant tests positive?

  • What will you do if an employee tests positive?

  • What tests will you use and what procedures will you follow?



The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires any organization which receives a contract of at least $25,000 from any federal agency to certify that it will provide a drug-free workplace.

The Federal Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires alcohol and drug testing of employees in a safety-sensitive position (aviation, motor carrier, railroad, mass transit). Employers covered by the law must provide alcohol and drug prevention programs.

There are several different methods of drug testing. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.


Drug Testing Methods

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  • Urine Test

  • Blood Test

  • Saliva and Hair Tests

  • Breath-Alcohol Test

Who Pays for the Drug Test?
Normally, employers pay for drug tests. Sometimes employers require the employee to pay for the test and, if the results are negative, the employer reimburses the employee. If employees are expected to pay, this should be stated in the written policy. The cost of a drug test at a DHHS-certified laboratory will vary depending on the services provided and the geographic location.

Drug Testing Procedures
A clear written description of the procedures that will be used for drug-testing should be included either in a drug-testing policy or in a separate document.

Percentages of Positive Results
According to a study by SmithKline Beecham Drug Testing, annual positive rates have declined since 1987 by nearly 14%. In 1987 a rate of 18.1% was indicated and positive drug-test rates have declined significantly each year; in 1997, a rate of 5.0% was reported.

Drug Use Higher Among Workers in Smaller Businesses
According to a 1998 report released by SAMHSA, the rate of current illicit drug use was higher among workers employed in smaller establishments than among workers employed in larger establishments. The study also indicated that current illicit drug use was higher among workers employed in smaller establishments (1 to 24 employees) than among workers employed in larger establishments (25 to 499 or 500 or more employees), however, the rate of heavy alcohol use did not differ by establishment size.
 
Post-Accident Testing
In most states employers are not liable for Worker's Compensation claims if an employee's injury is caused by being intoxicated by alcohol, or the unlawful use of a controlled substance. An individual may be disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits if he or she is discharged for chronic absenteeism due to , reporting to work while intoxicated, using intoxicants on the job, or for gross neglect of duty while intoxicated when any of these incidents was caused by an irresistible compulsion to use or consume intoxicants.

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