In short, employee drug testing should continue during the COVID-19 outbreak. You may be wondering how best to approach it now though. Many employees are working from home and businesses that are still operating on-site put strict social distancing policies in place virtually overnight.
If you find yourself unable to locate an open drug testing facility, the DOT suggests using a mobile drug testing company for the foreseeable future. That’s an option for employers of the general workforce to look into as well.
It’s been a long road already
The DOT (Department of Transportation) released guidelines at the end of March outlining the process for employers of the safety-sensitive workforce. Drug testing is still necessary to remain in compliance, however, it can be postponed if test sites aren’t available in the area due to the pandemic situation.
Always vital to our nation, the trucking industry continues to transport groceries, medical supplies, and—of course—toilet paper during the pandemic. Drivers risk exposure every day that they’re out on the road.
Yet, they know it’s imperative that they keep rolling.
Drug testing the safety-sensitive workforce helps to ensure safe passage for everyone on the road. It can’t stop when we depend on the trucking industry more than ever.
Employers of the general workforce shouldn’t stop drug testing either.
Companies open for business in the construction industry or in manufacturing, for example, still operate machinery, use power tools, or run the production line—all of which are made more dangerous if someone is impaired by drug or alcohol use.
Sadly, it’s hard to find someone that’s not on edge these days no matter where you are and some employees suffering from high anxiety or depression turn to drugs like marijuana or alcohol to “take the edge off.”
We rang in quite a year!
Who would have thought in January that our nation would be on lockdown beginning just three months later?
HR departments across the country have had to scramble to set up employees to work from home wherever possible. If you’re hiring new team members you may not have programmed the interview into AI yet, but more companies are handling that process remotely too.
Does your company require a pre-employment drug test?
Employees who use drugs or alcohol to relieve stress put themselves—and everyone around them—at a greater risk of being involved in an accident. Even though physicians prescribe marijuana and other drugs to relieve stress and anxiety, they also cause delayed reaction times and can impair motor skills.
The invisible threat
Do you find yourself shying away from someone when they’re coughing these days? It’s hard not to take “just in case” measures even though seasonal allergies are in full bloom, isn’t it?
Many of us willingly stay at home even though quarantine tends to get boring at times. It’s worth it to keep our families healthy. If you still go into work, wondering if the virus is lurking on surfaces you touch can’t help but pop into your mind periodically.
Not to mention the fact that it seems like everybody is washing their hands nearly every time that they pass a sink. If not, they may be sanitizing desks, doorknobs, and other hard surfaces to decrease the chance of spreading the virus.
It’s all for good reason. There’s a lot to be concerned about—especially if you’re out of your comfort zone.
Employers who plan to continue drug testing can ease their employees’ concerns about reporting for a drug test.
Protecting your employees
As soon as the pandemic began, drug testing companies increased their safety measures to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19.
If you’ve scheduled an employee drug share the following information. It’s likely to help an anxious employee feel more comfortable.
The PPE’s in place
Spacing waiting room seating at least six feet apart was the first step. However, it’s not possible to maintain that distance when conducting the mouth swab, alcohol, or hair follicle drug test.
The CDC suggests taking precautions around any body fluids. Technicians wear face masks or shields to protect both themselves and test subjects. Using fresh gloves for each drug test is a requirement too.
Increased sanitation measures
Frequently sanitizing the waiting area, counters, restrooms, and other areas of the building used for drug testing has become the norm. Many companies complete the process every hour and those that see a steady stream of people walk through the door do it more often.
If a breathalyzer is used, collectors follow specific guidelines to clean them after each use.
- The process includes using an antimicrobial cleaner or disinfectant. Alcohol isn’t used for cleaning breathalyzers, nor are hand sanitizers used by technicians, because it could affect the outcome of the test.
- The breathalyzer is placed so the collector and test subject aren’t facing each other.
- Once a mouthpiece is used, it’s never touched by the collector—even if they’re wearing gloves. Instead, techs deposit the mouthpiece directly into the trash using the ejection tab.
If a hair test is performed, technicians sanitize the scissors immediately after use.
A refusal to test
Despite addressing concerns about the safety of employee drug testing, some employees may refuse a drug test once arriving at the test site. In that event, collectors document the specifics of the refusal and follow the company’s guidelines as to reporting the refusal from that point.
If the company is regulated by the DOT, refusals to test are reported to the MRO (Medical Review Officer). Employers of the general workforce usually have a specific employee designated to handle company drug testing. In either case, the documentation is reviewed and the person in charge decides whether or not circumstances warranted the refusal.
Preparing for the future
No matter how advanced society has become, we are living proof that pandemics are still a cause for concern in our globally connected world.
Hopefully, we’ll always have over 100 years between events! To be safe though, you might want to consider updating your drug-free policies and procedures. State clearly within the new policy that if anyone refuses a drug test due to a current health concern that the employee agrees to a random drug test at any point in time the employer chooses after the crisis has passed.
It’s your right as an employer.
It’s also a step toward ensuring you provide the safest work environment possible for your employees—no matter what our new normal looks like.
Making this change in your drug testing policy reduces the risk of your company being accused of singling anyone out by asking for a random drug test after the fact.
Employees who use drugs get pretty creative in coming up with ways to try and avoid a drug test. A pandemic could certainly provide a “reasonable” excuse.
After seeing firsthand the effects of employee drug use, David Bell worked his way into the industry and up to his current role as CEO of USA Mobile Drug Testing, so that he could help employers ensure a safer and more productive workplace. Today he writes extensively on compliance and speaks at industry events to help educate employers.