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Dusan Petkovic/
further initiatives designed to combat dangerous substance abuse occurring in the workplace.
Benefits of Workplace Drug Testing
Today, although most private employers are not mandated by regulation to conduct drug testing for their job candidates or employees, many still choose to do so, and for good reason.1 Employers are ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe workplace for their employees and for ensuring public safety whenever and wherever their workers interact with society.
Employers drug test to:
■ Avoid legal liability in the event an impaired employee causes an accident or harms someone while working.
■ Ensure workplace productivity by preventing the potential effects brought about by employee substance abuse.
■ Safeguard company assets and property.
■ Qualify for workers’ compensation premium discounts in states that offer incentives to employers to maintain a drug-free workplace.
After the 1980s when drug-free workplace testing programs began to take hold, drug testing proved to be a necessary strategy for American employers to help prevent serious accidents and to ensure workplace productivity.
During these early years, laboratory-based urine drug testing was the predominant sampling and collection method used for workplace testing. With lab-based urine drug testing, a job candidate or employee would be instructed to visit a collection site and provide a urine specimen to be analyzed for specific drugs included in the employer’s testing panel (a bundling of common drugs of abuse). The collector would manually prepare a paper chain of custody/control form (CCF), seal the collected specimen and package it with the CCF, and then set it aside for a courier to pick up later in the day for transport to a testing laboratory for analysis.
Following analysis of the specimen, the lab reported the result and, if the result wasn’t negative (meaning there was no detection of use for any of the drugs in the test panel), a medical review officer (MRO) would then contact the specimen donor to determine if a valid medical reason prevented a negative result. If no valid medical reason could be established by the MRO, the employer would then be informed that the donor was positive for illegal drug use, either due to using a substance without valid medical authorization or using an illicit substance (one that had no valid medical purpose for use).
This type of testing process may sound familiar because to this day, it remains the most common method for workplace drug testing. However, several innovations have been made since these early years. These include electronic CCF, use of oral fluid (saliva) or hair sampling rather than urine and use of employer- administered testing devices offering “instant” or “rapid” screening results. Still, most workplace drug testing today still employs lab-based urine drug testing. Lab-based urine testing was established in the late 80s as the only permissible sampling method for federally-mandated testing, and remains so to this day. Employers who implemented their own drug-free workplace program based it on federal requirements, hence lab-based urine’s continued prevalence.
Some of these innovations may, however, offer notable advantages for employers which simply haven’t been fully considered yet. For example, use of an electronic CCF could help in significantly reducing result turnaround delays which currently exist with the use of paper forms. Additionally, sampling methods other than urine are currently available which can identify more recent use of an illicit drug, or which can identify use over a longer time period.
This article will explore attributes of oral fluid sampling and also highlight how it contrasts with other sampling methods.
Oral Fluid Sampling
“Lab-based drug testing” essentially means that a donor’s specimen (urine, oral fluid, hair, etc.) will be collected by a collector at a “collection site,” which will then be sent to a laboratory for scientific analysis. This lab is a separate facility with
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