Page 18 - OHS, March 2021
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The Impact of COVID-19 on Drug Testing
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created hesitation as far as workplace drug testing is concerned, it can still be done in a safe and effective manner.
The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for what could be the greatest economic collapse of all time. Since March 2020, thousands of businesses have been forced to close their doors—at least temporarily— causing literally millions of Americans to become unemployed. Now, over half a year later, employers are anxious to reopen their businesses and those who lost jobs are eager to find employment and get back to work.
While states are taking plans to reopen at different speeds, one constant remains— the question of workplace drug testing and safety during the pandemic. This article will give an overview of the general impact of COVID-19 on the industry, alternative testing methods during the pandemic and best practices for returning to work.
The Impact of COVID-19
on Drug Testing
A recent survey performed by the Current Consulting Group (CCG) found that since thestartofthepandemic,21percentof employers have reported a drop of 61 percent or more in the number of drug tests that they perform on employees.1 This
could be due to a variety of reasons—a drop in the number of individuals being tested due to high unemployment rates, more employees working from home and general concern about workplace drug testing safety and COVID-19 precautions, to name a few.
The CDC has issued a myriad of guidelines and recommendations pertaining to workplace safety during the pandemic.2 The CDC advises employers to:
■ Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
■ Consider conducting daily in- person health checks such as symptom and/or temperature screening.
■ Identify how and where employees may be exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
■ Separate sick employees.
■ Take action based on suspected and/ or confirmed COVID-19 infections.
■ Educate employees about protective steps to take at work and home.
■ Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices.
■ Communicate workplace policies clearly and effectively.
■ Have a plan should absenteeism spike.
■ Establish social distancing policies and practices.
■ Improve building ventilation systems.
■ Provide individuals with supplies to maintain clean hands and cover coughs and sneezes.
■ Perform routine cleaning in the workplace.
■ Perform enhanced cleaning after individuals with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases are in the workplace.
■ Limit travel.
■ Minimize risks when planning meetings and gatherings.
While the CDC has remained silent on guidance for workplace drug testing during the pandemic, other organizations, such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), have provided drug testing guidance that is applicable in workplace settings. Concerning drug testing specimens, ASAM stated:
“Any alternative testing protocol should minimize contact...and minimize the strain on local laboratory services. According to the CDC, viable and infectious COVID-19 can be found in both urine and stool samples of infected individuals. Precautions should be appropriately taken when working with these body fluids. In addition, as it is known to be spread through respiratory droplets, care should be taken when working with saliva specimens as well. At this time, the CDC provides no guidance on routinely pre-testing patients for the COVID-19 virus who are giving a saliva sample.”3
Following up this statement, ASAM addressed drug testing from home, “Treatment providers should explore options for drug testing at a distance such as using oral fluid-based tests and/or home breathalyzer tests monitored via telehealth.”
Some employers are citing concerns about sending employees/applicants to testing sites that are performing both COVID-19 and drug testing, as individuals may be exposed to COVID-19
14 Occupational Health & Safety | MARCH 2021
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