5 Employee Random Drug Testing Questions and Answers
PreCheck recently hosted a webinar on the value of random drug testing, and it is apparent that there are many questions employers are asking themselves regarding this practice. As a follow up to our webinar, which is now available on-demand, I thought I would take this opportunity to answer some of these common questions for our readers.
An employment random drug testing program can be a valuable asset for any organization looking to improve employee productivity and workplace safety, but getting started can be overwhelming. Here are a few common questions you may come across as you review your organization’s drug testing program and policy.
Why should healthcare employers be concerned about the magnitude of the prescription drug abuse problem?
According to the latest reported statistics, the rate of psychotherapeutic drug abuse continues to increase. It’s established itself as a leading cause of drug abuse. An article published in April 2014 by USA Today, reports, “more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, technicians and other health professionals struggle with abuse or addiction, mostly involving narcotics such as oxycodone and fentanyl.” Because they have access to these drugs through the nature of what they do for a living and their knowledgeable of these drugs, the risk is higher in this category of employment than others. You may already be aware of the case of David Kwiatkowski, who took advantage of this access to drugs in hospitals and other healthcare settings to feed his problem while infecting over 40 patients with Hepatitis C in the process. If the healthcare facilities where Kwiatkowski had strict random drug testing programs in place, perhaps Kwiatkowski’s problem could have been identified much earlier.
What are some federal recommendations for drug testing applicable to healthcare employers?
In January 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) accepted the recommendations of the Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB) to expand the drug testing panel to include additional Schedule II prescription medications (such as hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone), prescription painkiller opioid drugs, as well as adding oral fluid as an alternative specimen for federal workplace drug testing programs. This is significant, because it recognizes the problem of the misuse of prescription drugs.
In March 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson and colleague Erika T. Broadhurst wrote an OpEd Column published in the New York Times, in which the OIG makes a clear recommendation for healthcare organizations: “We believe hospitals should be required to perform random drug tests on all healthcare workers with access to drugs. These tests should be comprehensive enough to screen for fentanyl and other commonly abused drugs and must keep up with evolving drug abuse patterns.”
How can employers benefit from a random drug testing program?
Random drug testing has been proven as an effective business practice across many industries, and as we mentioned above, the OIG has recently recommended that the healthcare industry follow the example. One of the benefits of an employment random drug testing program is that it can deter some drug users from using drugs. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a drug testing program curbs drug abuse through three channels: the fear of getting caught; the probability of getting punished; and the severity of the penalty. Furthermore, the NBER states that “far more effective… programs [require] all workers to submit to random drug tests.” In the healthcare setting, random drug testing can also help employers identify people who need help and can help protect patients from adverse events. Additionally, random drug testing can also save your organization money. According to a 2013 article published in the Dayton Daily News, “employers pay on average $7,000 per employee annually to deal with unaddressed substance abuse problems among workers”.
How do I get started on performing random drug tests on employees?
Regardless of what industry you may be in, start with a written policy. Articulate your drug testing objectives, explain how you’re going to conduct drug testing, when you will conduct drug testing, who will be subject, and under what circumstances individuals will be subject to drug testing. A written policy is the key to an effective drug testing program. Your drug testing policy should explain what you do what you do every time to ensure that procedures are followed consistently. It is both your protection and where it all starts. Articulate your procedures, testing methods, and anything subject to any applicable state laws. Make sure your policy explains how you perform random drug testing. Once you have everything in place, you’ll also want to educate your supervisors and employees. For a random drug testing program, it’s important to ensure that you have a random frequency rate and that you inform your employees that anyone can be subject to suspicion-less random drug testing. Random drug testing programs are only effective when employees are aware that anyone is subject to random drug testing, regardless of whether they just tested recently.
Are there any restrictions for performing random drug testing on employees?
While there is no federal law that prohibits employers from conducting random drug testing, there are some states that contain certain restrictions. Find out if your state has a random drug testing law and look for the following key points:
- Is there a definition of random drug testing in the statute?
- Who can be subject to random drug testing and who cannot?
- Is there a random frequency rate that you need to abide by?
- What types of confirmation tests have to be performed and is a Medical Review Officer (MRO) required?
- Are there any other conditions that apply to random drug testing?
These are just a few questions you may come across as you consider revising your organization’s drug testing policy. Are there any others you would like us to address?
For more information on PreCheck’s employment drug testing services, click here.
To watch the webinar recording on-demand, click on the image below.