Your guide to random drug testing in the workplace

Your guide to random drug testing in the workplace

Conducting drug and alcohol testing as part of a pre-employment screening process is an easy first step in hiring the right people. But knowing when – and how – to test existing employees is just as critical to maintaining a safe and productive workplace.

Legal practices vary depending on state laws, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permits most alcohol- and drug-testing programs to ensure a safe and drug-free workplace.

Random testing is essential for a safe workplace

Random screens are a critical part of any testing program because they allow an employer to test an employee for drugs or alcohol at any time. This can be especially important in high-turnover industries or for employees working in safety-sensitive positions.

Random testing is often considered the “gold standard” for deterring drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Workers in safety-sensitive functions should be tested on at least a quarterly basis because random screens help to:

  • Save lives,
  • Prevent injuries,
  • Identify workers with substance abuse issues and facilitate their treatment,
  • Enable employees to easily say no to illegal drug use, and
  • Reduce employer liability.

1. Implement a scientifically valid selection process

Everyone in the testing pool must have an equal chance of being selected and tested in each selection period. As such, companies must use a scientifically proven system for selecting employees for random testing.

Scientifically valid methods include using a random-number table or a computer-based random number generator that’s traceable to a specific employee. Unacceptable random selection practices include selecting numbers from a hat, rolling dice, throwing darts, picking cards or selecting ping pong balls.

2. Make it a surprise

The effectiveness of random testing relies on the element of surprise. While employees know they will be tested, they never know when they may be selected for testing.

Employers should ensure that each employee receives no advanced notice of their selection. When an employee is notified, he or she must proceed immediately to the collection site. If the employee refuses or the test doesn’t occur, the opportunity for the random test is over.

Testing should be spread equally throughout the year in a non-predictable pattern. You can enhance the unpredictability of your program by conducting tests just before, during or after the employee performs a safety-sensitive job, and at the start, middle or end of each shift.

3. Hit your numbers

The DOT requires an annual drug testing rate of 50% and an alcohol testing rate of 10%. In other words, if an employer has 100 safety-sensitive employees, it should conduct 50 or more random drug tests and 10 or more random alcohol tests during the calendar year.

For non-DOT companies, the business can set their own benchmarks through a robust drug and alcohol policy that meets state, federal and industry laws.

4. Develop a random drug program policy

Employers must establish a clear drug and alcohol policy that clearly communicates the details of your company’s drug-testing policy, including how random drug and alcohol testing will be conducted. This informs employees of your policies and procedures and eliminates misunderstandings about what is expected.

A random testing policy should include:

  • What activities are acceptable after notification,
  • What the employee must do before resuming safety-sensitive functions,
  • How to document the entire random testing process, including numbers, names drawn, dates and times of notification, and dates and times of collections,
  • How to monitor random tests that have been completed, and
  • Repercussions if an employee tests positive.

Partnering with a drug and alcohol screening expert like Noble Diagnostics will help you stay current with ever-evolving legislation, regulations and workplace best practices so you can develop a truly random drug and alcohol testing program.

Contact Noble Diagnostics to discuss your needs today.


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