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Can Employers Drug Test On-Site?

  • Published: 12/27/2022
  • Updated: 12/27/2022

Companies often have a duty to test their employees for recreational and illegal substances to ensure that they (and their colleagues) remain safe on-site. However, management and supervisors frequently wonder what legal rights they have to conduct testing and how they can do it compliantly. 

YES – Employers Can Conduct Drug Tests On-Site

Companies traditionally outsourced drug-testing to third-party laboratories operating off-site. However, there is no legal requirement to do this.  Furthermore, operating an on-site program offers a host of practical benefits too. Often, it is less expensive than the outsourced alternative. Plus, you can test employees at any time of the day – not just during regular office hours.

Why You Should Drug Test On-Site

If you’re an experienced supervisor, you will understand some of the difficulties of outsourced drug testing arrangements. Suppose an employee gets injured, and your company policy insists that you test for illicit or recreational substances. In that case, you have to call up the testing laboratory, arrange a call-out, and then pay a series of fees to cover the service’s cost. 

What’s more, if the injury occurs late in the afternoon, you may not be able to get a drug test that same day. One might only become available the next morning. By that time, evidence of substances, like alcohol, might have exited the body, and you’ll be none the wiser. Furthermore, even if you manage to get hold of somebody at the laboratory, you’re then liable to pay after-hours fees, some of which can be hefty. 

Almost always, on-site drug testing is less expensive and more convenient than the traditional alternative. You can get employees already on your payroll to carry out the testing at no additional cost (besides the time they lose attending to their regular duties). Furthermore, the colleagues you assign to these roles are available continuously during operational hours, including night shifts, meaning that you can conduct contemporaneous testing instead of waiting for a lab technician to come out the next day. 

The estimated on-site savings for urine tests are substantial. The marginal cost per test is around $15 in-house – a figure that is substantially lower than the average third-party base cost of $60. When you multiply the $45 saving over thousands of tests, you wind up with substantial reductions in expenses – especially if you perform routine substance monitoring. 

Why is there such a difference in costs between in-house and outsourced? Usually, third-party support is cheaper than in-house alternatives, especially for technical activities.

The reason in-house drug testing is less expensive than going to a lab comes down to some unique quirks of testing services. It is an in-person service for starters, so a technician must come to your site to carry out the test, incurring a call-out expense. Lab services are also quite rare, meaning that there are relatively few outfits in any given location to provide you with quick, on-demand drug tests in response to your operational requirements. Many agencies can increase their prices substantially. Furthermore, when you price other factors such as state testing protocol requirements, confirmation testing, and shy bladder procedures, the actual costs can wind up even more than in the above example.

Finally, there are fundamental safety reasons for adopting an in-house strategy for drug testing. Waiting for tests and results simply isn’t acceptable when property and people are at risk. If employees do have substances in their blood, your premises are hazardous and need immediate remedial action. You cannot afford to wait. 

What Courses Can You Take?

In principle, in-house testing appears to offer a host of advantages that companies should love. But many of you will be wondering how you achieve this in practice. Aren’t third-party laboratories specialist providers? How can the average company bring this kind of expertise in-house? 

The most significant barrier to in-house testing isn’t acquiring test kits: it’s providing staff with the skills required to conduct testing safety, accurately, and compliantly. Fortunately, drug-testing training solves this problem. Here, you send colleagues on courses to learn about the various concepts associated with testing, teaching them the skills they need to bring the capacity in-house. Fundamentally, there’s no reason why employees in your organization should be any less able to administer drug tests than external professionals. 

Training employees to perform drug testing on peers is a one-time cost. You pay upfront for the course and then review it every five years via a refresher if regulation requires. 

Multiple courses are available for both DOT and non-DOT employers. Basic employee drug training bundles include things like DOT drug and alcohol testing, non-DOT blood and alcohol testing, breathalyzer instruction, and in-person coaching, depending on the courses that you choose. Training can also include specific aspects of testing, such as analyzing hair specimens for evidence of past drug use, collecting saliva, and train-the-trainer options.

Employer Courses

Getting employees to complete these courses provides you with far more control over your drug testing program and the ability to ensure that your enterprise remains compliant. Remember, when you choose a third-party to conduct testing, you don’t know whether their procedures are compliant with state and federal drug testing law. Furthermore, services that mandate that people from your organization travel to a test site put additional danger on your personnel. If an employee does indeed have alcohol or drugs in their system, then transporting them to a third-party location represents a serious liability on the part of your firm. 

Please note that drug testing regulations are subject to change. Applicable laws may vary one year to the next, making the need for ongoing training provision necessary. Quality training providers have both legitimate certification as well as ample experience in the background subject matter. They should be proficient in both the legal requirements you need to follow and offer pedagogic skills that enable your organization members to learn concepts quickly.