Workplace Drug Testing

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Drug testing in the workplace is not universal, and is regulated by various governmental agencies at the federal, state and municipal levels, as well as by various industries. Safety-sensitive occupations are typically targeted, and various industries and agencies have differing drug-testing protocols. In the United States, drug testing is highly structured and much of it falls under the purview of Presidential Executive Order # 12564,  issued in 1986, and subsequent legislation following a multiple-death and injury train collision in 1987 in which the train engineer and his brakeman had been smoking marijuana at the time of the crash.

Most workplace drug testing programs test only for what are referred to as the “NIDA-5”: heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, marijuana and PCP, as well as alcohol. While illicit drug use spurred widespread drug testing in the U.S., legitimately prescribed medications which may impact safety in the workplace are a growing issue which has not yet been fully addressed (“Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while using this medication.”). Many companies establish Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which are designed to help businesses address productivity issues. The EAP provides various services to behaviorally-affected employees to alleviate and resolve issues, including substance abuse, with their job performance.

The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates a highly structured workplace drug testing procedure for employees in transportation systems. Other safety-sensitive industries, such as utilities, have adopted the same procedures. Samples are matched to employees through a rigorous chain of custody, and are reviewed by a certified Medical Review Officer (MRO) . Various regulations govern not only negative and positive results, but also dilutes, split samples, false positives and negatives, and presumed negatives.