The purpose of drug testing is to lessen the risks and losses associated with drug use by employees. Drug use in the workplace costs employers an estimated $75 to $100 billion dollars each year in accidents, lost time, health care and worker's compensation costs. Drug and alcohol use on the job is responsible for 65% of all job related accidents. Additionally, drug users are more likely to file worker's compensation claims, and use more health care benefits than non-users.
Before beginning a drug testing program, employers should establish policies and procedures. Pre-employment screening is the most common type of testing program. Obtaining a signed consent that clearly states that a drug test is a condition of employment is recommended.
Post-employment drug testing of existing employees is becoming more common. Random testing, suspicion testing and testing following an accident as well as testing required by law in certain industries can be a legally sensitive issue. Prior to implementing a drug screening program, employers should provide education for supervisors and employees, as well as disciplinary actions that will be taken following a positive test.
The majority of companies use a five panel test of street drugs that detects marijuana, PCP, opiates and amphetamines. Others use a ten panel test that also identifies certain drugs that are legal to possess and use. It is also possible to test for alcohol.
Most drugs will be eliminated from the body within two to four days. Many employers require samples from their employees within a certain time frame so drug users cannot wait until drugs leave their system.
Urine samples are generally collected and sent to an independent laboratory for testing. Negative test results are usually available within 24 hours. There are over the counter, instant tests available. Using these tests requires the employer to handle and safely dispose of the urine sample; in the event of a positive test, confirmation from a laboratory is necessary. Self tests are generally not used for these reasons. Testing labs will confirm a positive test through a series of procedures and may also use the services of an independent physician to review the results before reporting it to the employer.
Should an existing employee test positive for drugs, the employer should follow the policies and procedures they have in place, and may refer the subject to an Employee Assistance Program for assessment and treatment recommendations. All positive drug tests must remain confidential.