Thinking of Starting a Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy in Your Workplace?

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Considering adding a drug and alcohol testing program to your workplace?

There are a variety of reasons for considering the addition of a drug and alcohol testing program into the workplace. A program may be required by law, a new safety in the workplace program may require the additional testing, a potential client contract may require testing of some or all employees, or it may just be the right thing to do. Whatever the reason, the company should balance the risks versus rewards of the program before considering this type of program.

The first step is to determine whether or not it makes sense for an organization to implement this type of program. What does the company do? Does the company manufacture medical devices that are inserted into the body or is the company’s sole business designing graphics? There are different levels of safety concerns to consider depending on the company’s business. Also, assess whether it is a fit for the company’s culture and consider how employees will react to the policy. Is the company more laid back in its policies and procedures or more stringent? Some voluntary and involuntary turnover should be expected when implementing this type of program, so be sure to factor in the cost of turnover.

Next, determine what state and federal laws will guide the program. In Minnesota, the primary law is the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (MDATWA). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that will determine aspects of this policy as well. These laws will assist in defining the necessary components to create a written policy and maintain a testing program. Keep in mind that implementing a policy and doing the testing is not a one-time project and requires additional time, resources, and maintenance. Communication and training of employees and supervisors along with required notices and postings will require time and money. In addition, depending on how the program is structured, there may be a variety tests conducted throughout the employment process. These may include pre-employment, annual, semi-annual, post-accident, for-cause/reasonable suspicion, and random. With the testing comes the results and different factors come into play whether the test results are positive or negative. Positive, false positives, and confirmation tests will all need to be defined and potential consequences spelled out in the policy. In addition to the testing, there are rules regarding the testing and what employees and applicants are entitled to after receiving the results. Remember the employer is responsible for maintaining the privacy of the test results as well.

Overall, there are a number of areas to consider when thinking about implementing a workplace drug and alcohol testing policy. By conducting a rewards and risk analysis, you can begin to understand if a drug and alcohol testing program is right for the company. The next blog will discuss the options and consequences for positive test results.



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