API Global offers services to improve your Workplace Drug and Alcohol Policy.
What’s the best tool employers have for deterring drug and alcohol use in the workplace?
And, here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Saves lives and prevents injuries.
- Helps employers identify workers with substance abuse issues and facilitate their treatment.
- Allows employees to easily say no to illegal drug use. “No, thanks. They drug test at work.”
- Reduces employer liability.
- It is a fair way of testing.
What follows are best practices as identified by representatives from many industries and organizations as well as government regulated programs. We hope this guide provides an additional tool for implementing an effective random testing program.
Random testing should be required for all employees, but most importantly those performing safety-sensitive job functions;
i.e. vehicle operators – transportation of goods or personnel equipment operators – anywhere life or limb might be at risk.
Each DOT Agency and the USCG has regulations that require certain employers to implement a random testing program.
Best Practices: Random Drug and Alcohol Testing
Establishing Random Testing Rates
The random rates are annual minimum requirements. Determine the percentage of your workforce you want tested over the course of the year and stay with that number long enough to determine the effects. Setting a rate of 50% and an alcohol testing rate of 10%, then an employer with 100 safety-sensitive employees would have to ensure that 50 or more random drug tests and 10 or more random alcohol tests were conducted during the calendar year.
Setting-Up a Random Pool of Employees
Regardless of job titles like supervisor, volunteer, contractor, owner operators, etc., people are chosen for testing based on their job function (known as a safety-sensitive function) not their occupational title. (Only DOT safety-sensitive employees may be part of the DOT random pool or pools. Remember your DOT testing program must always be separate and distinct from your private company or non-DOT testing program.) That goes for your random testing pools, too. DOT and non-DOT random testing pools must be completely separate.
Everyone in the pool must have an equal chance of being selected and tested in each selection period. Selections can be by employee name, identifying title, or a group that is clearly delineated in company policy or random plan.
Be sure to use a scientifically valid method to select employees for testing, which may include: use of a random-number table, a computer-based random number generator that’s traceable to a specific employee (or a group).
Warning: Unacceptable random selection practices include selecting numbers from a hat, rolling dice, throwing darts, picking cards, or selecting ping pong balls.
What makes random testing so effective is the element of surprise. While employees know they will be tested, they are never quite sure of when, so random selections and testing should be performed at least quarterly. Some employers are selecting and testing more frequently. We think that is a good idea.
Note: If you think you might not meet your annual testing rate requirement, increase your testing. But, in an effective random program, testing must be spread equally throughout the year.
Best practices: Here are smart things you can do to figure out when to test:
Spread testing dates reasonably throughout the year in a non-predictable pattern.
Conduct random drug tests anytime employees are on duty or while performing safety-sensitive duties.
Each workday or weekend, you can enhance the non-predictability of your program by conducting tests at the start, middle, or end of each shift. The worse thing that could happen is for employees to say, “Yup, the last Friday of every month the second shift gets tested.”
Why are some people randomly tested more than once?
“Is the boss singling me out? I just did a random last month? Joe, never gets tested? I don’t think this thing is random at all!”
Those are not uncommon concerns among some safety-sensitive employees, and many employers have been challenged in court to demonstrate that their programs are truly random. The reality is that in a truly random selection process, a high probability exists that some employees will be selected several times while others may never be selected.
Why? Because after each selection, the employee’s name is returned to the same pool, and he or she becomes just as likely as anyone else to be selected next time.
How are employees notified to report for a test?
Every employee should be discreetly notified according to your company’s policy, but random testing must also be conducted in strict confidence with a limited number of people having knowledge of the selection list.
Why? Because it helps maintain the element of surprise.
Best Practices: Every employer should have procedures in place to ensure that each employee receives no advanced notice of selection. But, be sure to allow sufficient time for supervisors to schedule for the administration of the test and to ensure that collection sites are available for testing.
Remember: Employers must provide appropriate privacy for each employee the fact that he or she is being tested.
What happens if a selected employee is not available for testing?
Employers need to have policies in place about what to do when employees are unavailable for testing.
If an employee selected for testing is known to be unavailable during the selection cycle (legitimate extended absence, long-term illness, etc.), document the reason and make-up the rate shortfall by making another selection, or make an extra selection during the next selection cycle.
No employee should be excused from testing because of operational difficulties. See your industry specific regulations and interpretations for legitimate exceptions.
Once the employee is notified to report for testing and the test does not occur, the opportunity for the random testing is over. There is no second “bite of the apple.”
What must employees do when notified of a random test?
When an employee is notified, he or she must proceed immediately to the collection site. Contrary to the urban legends circulating among some employees, immediately does not mean two hours. Immediately means that after notification, all the employee’s actions must lead to an immediate specimen collection
Why? For the integrity of the testing process.
Best Practice: Many employers develop random testing procedures or policies that clearly state what activities are acceptable after notification: for instance, which safety-sensitive duties Agency regulations permit them to complete. If an employee is notified of a random test while working “off site” or “on the road,” the company’s policies should spell-out exactly what the employee must do before resuming safety-sensitive functions. That way there is no misunderstanding among employees about what is expected.
Maintaining and Evaluating Your Random Program
It is the best practice for an employer to document everything on the entire random testing process. This includes the numbers, names drawn, dates and times of notification, dates and times of collections, why a selected employee was not tested during a selection cycle, etc. If you’re not sure, document it!
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