7 Common Drug Testing Mistakes to Avoid for Businesses

Is your business doing drug testing the right way?


Drug testing can help you find (and keep) the right employees to help your business succeed. But only if you do them the right way. If you’ve never had experience with this before, it can be tricky to know what that right way is.


Don’t worry! Read on for these 7 drug testing mistakes you should avoid today for the best practice.


1. There Isn’t a Clear Drug Testing Policy

For any drug testing routine, it’s critical to have a well-written, clear policy. Without this document in place, you can’t hope to do any sort of meaningful testing. For example, how will people know what to do if an employee’s test comes back positive for drugs?


Be transparent and let your employees know what your drug testing policy is. It won’t do to make it some mysterious event to fear within your company.


Explain that employee safety is your biggest concern. The drug and alcohol tests are to ensure everyone’s safety in the workplace. Employees that are in the loop will usually be happy to comply. Make them feel included.


By distributing the information to your employees, it reduces fear and confusion. Everyone knows what to expect and it doesn’t have to be a scary event that the whole office dreads.


2. You Apply DOT requirements to non-DOT Employees

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) have their own regulations on drug testing. These will apply to a specific group of employees, but they don’t apply to anyone else.


Employers may believe they can take the DOT requirements, and apply it across the board. This is a huge mistake though. Drug regulations for non-DOT employees are down to state and local laws.


Some laws allow aggrieved employees to sue their employers. And this comes with the right to significant financial settlements. It’s important you follow your local and state guidelines in this case. Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck in legal and financial trouble.


3. You’re Using the Wrong Type of Test

A drug testing method that works for a financial firm might not work well on the production shop floor. Where there are safety-sensitive positions, you may need to take a different approach. And it isn’t one size fits all.


Urine tests, for example, are the most accepted means of testing in the workplace. But testing hair follicles can give more reliable results for specific controlled substances. If you’re collecting on-site, oral fluid (saliva) testing may be a more manageable option. It’s easier to collect and handle.


Different methods will vary in how invasive they are. You should also consider:

  • The chance of specimen tampering/substitution
  • What facilities you need
  • How reliable the results are
  • The time window in which you can detect these drugs


At the end of the day, choosing the method is down to you. But you want to be sure you’re picking the right one that covers your entire business.


4. You’re Using a Limited Test Panel

Most businesses will try to save money on drug screening costs and opt for the standard 5-panel drug test. They won’t be assessing their individual workplace needs and requirements. More businesses are expanding the types they’re testing applicants and employees for.


For example, say opioid abuse is causing the most issues. There’s lost time off work, accidents in the workplace, and associated health costs. You would want to make sure you’re testing for opioids like:

  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone


It’s okay to be specific and delve into more detail if you know there’s a problem.


5. Not Doing Reasonable-Suspicion Drug Tests

You conduct a reasonable-suspicion drug test when an employee shows signs of drug use. These signs include:

  • Behavioral
  • Psychological
  • Physical


HR staff and managers must document any facts that suggest an employee is under the influence. Include times and dates.


When it comes to drug testing, timing is vital. Drug and alcohol markers don’t stay in the body long. In most cases, you may only have a 24-48 hour testing window. Carry out testing as soon as you notice something that meets the criteria.


Most people want to avoid confrontation as much as possible. Unless staff knows how to do it, they’ll likely stick to ignoring the signs and leaving it to someone else.


6. There are Vague or No Consequences

A lot of the time, drug testing policies remain vague when it comes to what happens if an employee fails. Some will say that if they fail a drug test, they’ll be subject to “disciplinary action“. But what does that actually mean?


Vague consequences for failing a drug test can make the whole process ineffective. It could even leave you open to discrimination legal suits.


To remove the chance of unfair treatment, HR needs to make sure the policies are crystal clear. Employees need to know what the consequences are. And that they will apply to everyone who fails the test.


It’s a common mistake even among companies with a clear, established policy already. Without set penalties, like suspension or termination, you lose a lot of your power. Employees end up never going through testing. Or they are able to prolong it long enough to get the substances out of their system.


7. Not Providing Notice in Writing

When you’re rolling out your drug policy, you should have documentation. This is for HR and Management to use as guidelines. But, it also needs to go to your employees too.


You need documented proof employees have read, understood, and accept the policy. Otherwise, you might find it isn’t enforceable by law.


HR needs to inform all employees in writing of the full policy details. This should be in contract form for employees to sign. Or they will need to attach consent forms to the documentation that they need to sign and give back.


You will need to do this any time you make future changes too, with notice before those changes come into effect. A lot of businesses overlook this, especially when it comes to changing the policy.


Don’t Get Caught Out by Drug Testing Mistakes

So there you have it! Now you know these 7 common drug testing mistakes, you know what to avoid.


Transparency at all levels is key, you need to keep your employees informed. They need to know the policy in detail, the consequences and have understood and agreed to it.


Make sure you’re being thorough, and the relevant staff knows what they’re expected to do. And remember, don’t stick with the basic testing, tailor it to suit your business needs.


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