During this COVID-19 pandemic, workplace drug
testing will require new rules and new precaution, but it should never be

Here’s a real-life incident involving a test
subject who, while waiting to take a drug test, realized that a co-worker was
coughing in the restroom. He then refused to enter the restroom because there
was a risk that his co-worker might have COVID-19.

The test was being conducted at a remote
location in a company trailer on-site. There was no other restroom available.

The employee’s concern was valid, of course,
because the coronavirus is highly contagious.

But understandably raised a red flag that perhaps he was avoiding the test. Only a short time before, he was willing to work alongside the co-worker with no apparent concern for his health.

How would your organization handle this

Procedures in place

Things changed rapidly after COVID-19 made its
way to the United States.

Drug testing companies immediately increased
their safety measures to provide the safest environment for both employees and
their collectors.

PPE in place

Social distancing is practiced, however, maintaining a distance of six feet isn’t always possible. That’s especially true when conducting the mouth swab, alcohol, or hair follicle drug test.

The CDC recommends taking extra precautions around any body fluids. Face shields or masks are worn to protect both collectors and test subjects. Moreover, fresh gloves are used for each drug test.

Sanitation measures increased

The most commonly used employee drug test is
the urine test. Of course, normal procedures include sanitizing the restrooms
between tests. Still, sanitation measures have been increased to ensure further

In addition, drug testing facilities have
beefed up other sanitation procedures, such as frequently cleaning hard
surfaces like countertops, chairs, and doorknobs.

Moreover, collectors follow specific
guidelines to clean breathalyzers after each use.

  • Breathalyzers are cleaned with an antimicrobial cleaner or disinfectant. Bleach based cleaners are used rather than alcohol because using alcohol could affect the outcome of the test.
  • Hand sanitizers are not used by or near someone administering the test to avoid compromising the result as well. Instead, hand washing protocols outlined by the CDC are followed.
  • The test subject may not touch the collector or the breathalyzer with their hands.
  • A freshly opened mouthpiece is required for every test.
  • The breathalyzer and subject are faced away from the collector.
  • The used mouthpiece is never touched by the collector—even when wearing gloves. Instead, the ejection tab is used to deposit the mouthpiece directly into the trash.
  • Scissors used for the hair follicle drug test are properly sanitized between uses.

Refusing to test

If your employees express concern about
reporting for a drug test, you can assure them that there are guidelines in
place to protect them from the spread of the virus.

If an employee refuses a drug test for any reason—even COVID-19 concerns—it’s reported as a refusal to test.

Collectors document the refusal and follow the
company’s guidelines as outlined in its refusal to test policy. A
well-documented report is key. It allows the employer or company representative
to decide how to handle the situation 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 appoint someone to be in charge of company drug
testing. In either case, the documentation is reviewed. Then, it’s determined
whether or not the circumstance is deemed a refusal to test.

Moving forward

Employers that aren’t held to government regulations
may want to consider updating your drug-free policies and procedures. State
clearly within the policy that if anyone refuses a drug test due to a current
health concern—such as we find ourselves in now—the employee agrees that their
employer has the right to randomly test them at any point in time that the
employer chooses after the crisis has passed.

This change in policy reduces the risk of your
company being accused of singling someone out should you ask them to randomly
take a drug test after having refused a test during a health crisis.

Employees who use drugs are likely to try and
wheedle their way out of taking a drug test with some type of excuse. A
nationwide health crisis falls into that category. A policy update gives you
the right to have that employee tested at your discretion once the crisis

If you’re federally regulated, adding this
policy change allows you to administer a non-DOT drug test at another time.

Speaking of the government

There’s been a rumor surfacing on social media
that the DOT is not requiring drug testing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

That’s not true.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a statement near the end of March that touched on the importance of continued drug testing during this time.

Our nation is depending on the transportation
industry to keep shelves stocked with needed food and supplies. It’s also
responsible for seeing that needed medical supplies and personal protective
gear (PPG) arrive at their destinations.

Overall, the department is committed to
maintaining public safety while allowing the

transportation industries to operate safely
and efficiently during this national crisis.

A person who uses drugs or alcohol is likely
to rely on them as a way of coping with a situation—especially, during a time
of high anxiety. It’s imperative that the DOT carries on with scheduled drug

Special guidelines

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s
statement supplied employers of the safety-sensitive workforce with a set of
guidelines to follow during this turbulent time.

They noted that drug testing must continue
unless the employer found themselves in a region of the country that no longer
had testing resources available to them due to a reduced workforce. They
suggest using a mobile drug testing company if fixed-site facilities aren’t
available to them.

If drug testing isn’t possible due to a
reduced workforce, state or local quarantine measures in place, or other
impediments, the employer should document why a test wasn’t completed.
Furthermore, if a pre-employment drug test isn’t completed, employers can’t
allow a prospective employee to perform any DOT safety-sensitive functions.

Staying the course

The number one reason that employers drug test
their employees is to provide the safest possible work environment for
everyone. It’s a well-known fact that drug impairment puts the employee—and
those nearby—at a greater risk of being involved in a workplace accident.

Moreover, drug use affects employers in a
number of ways.

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Lower productivity
  • Increased medical costs

No one wakes up one day and decides to become
an addict.

Sadly, though, statistics show that 50% of drug addicts are born genetically predisposed. The other 50% begin using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism and become dependent on their drug of choice.

Even though many companies have employees
working from home during this pandemic, others are working countless hours of
overtime in factories, hospitals, and other essential businesses to keep our
nation supplied with the goods and services that we need to survive.

Overall, employee drug testing should continue because it plays an important role in society. Everyone deserves the right to go to work without fearing for their safety.

Moreover, identifying employees who use drugs
allows you to point them in the direction of help. Even someone who refuses to
admit to themselves that they have a problem finds it hard not to come to that
realization if they’ve lost their job because of it.

The post Maintaining effective drug-testing procedures during the pandemic appeared first on HR Morning.

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