Pre-Employment Drug Testing: A Step-by-Step Procedural Guide

Pre-Employment Drug Testing: A Step-by-Step Procedural Guide

As you move through the hiring process with potential job candidates, you want to be sure that they’re performing at their fullest capacity. A pre-employment drug screen or test will help you make those hiring decisions. A workplace’s safety and productivity hinge on the mental clarity of its staff, so be proactive in ensuring that clarity. This handy step-by-step procedural guide to pre-employment drug testing works as a manual for you during the testing process.

Step One: Choose the Right Test

Which substances do you want to test for? Depending on the nature of the job, you may either widen or narrow your scope of testing. A standard five-panel drug test detects the presence of amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. Many workplaces go the standard five-panel route because it tests for the most popularly abused substances in a pinch. Are there additional safety concerns attached to the job description? You can broaden your scope with a 10-panel test, which also tests for benzodiazepines and methadone. However, you should exercise caution when administering a 10-panel drug test, as some job candidates may have prescriptions for substances that show up on extensive drug tests.

Once you’ve decided which substances to test for, choose a method of testing. Will you collect urine, hair, blood, saliva, or a combination of the four?

Urine tests are the most popular method due to their ease of collection and testing. The standard five-panel drug test is often performed on urine samples. American Screening’s selection of urinalysis strips and other drug screening supplies makes the process quick and easy. However, there are benefits to other options.

While hair tests do not detect the presence of alcohol, they can detect any illicit drugs used within the last three months.

Blood tests, while not often used in pre-employment screening, can be helpful in detecting alcohol levels in somebody who’s been in an accident. For instance, a post-accident drug test can be useful for employers if an employee has recently been in an auto accident. This is because police and employers alike want to know if the person was under the influence of any illicit substances at the time of the accident.

Saliva tests and breathalyzers can be helpful on the spot in detecting the presence of alcohol or THC in a person’s system. They are most helpful in environments with heightened safety concerns and can detect whether the subject drank alcohol or ingested cannabis very recently.

Step Two: Create a Comprehensive Policy

Make sure all your employees and potential job candidates know and understand your drug and alcohol policy. Put that policy in writing!

When you create your drug and alcohol policy, research all relevant federal and state laws. Are you part of a federal agency that receives federal contracts upwards of $100,000 or grants of any size? Then the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 mandates that you create and enforce a drug-free workplace policy. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides comprehensive guidelines for drug testing in federal agencies. Be clear about your intentions and distribute the policy throughout your whole company.

Even if you are not part of a federal agency, state laws still apply to you and your business. Depending on your state, you may have more or fewer restrictions on whom you can test and what you can do with their results. Make sure the law is on your side when you draw up your drug and alcohol policy.

Your policy can include pre-employment drug screening or testing. Your state’s laws may or may not dictate that you give a job applicant advance notice of the drug test. Current employees are not the only ones who should know your policy—you should make it available to applicants and potential candidates as well. The important thing is to make sure everybody is on the same page. Many states accept an applicant’s refusal to take a drug test as grounds for you not to hire them. The applicant should know that that’s a risk before they take it.

Restrictions regarding random drug tests also vary from state to state. Some states limit random drug tests to situations with “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause.” Regardless of whether or not you plan to include random drug tests in your policy, make sure all employees and applicants are aware. Set clear expectations for what behaviors and habits you will not tolerate.

Step Three: Enforce That Policy

During the hiring process, once you’ve narrowed down your field of applicants to a few promising candidates, contact those candidates. Let them know that their hiring will hinge on a pre-employment drug test, and make sure they complete it in a timely manner. Having a deadline is a good idea. If a candidate knows they have to complete a urine test within a short time frame, it’ll be harder to try and cheat or fudge the results.

If you plan to perform pre-employment drug tests on potential job candidates, you must be equitable in performing those tests. Do not let your judgment be clouded by any unconscious biases. If you drug-test the young man fresh out of college, you must also drug-test the middle-aged career woman. Drug abuse and addiction are not always visible, and they can affect people from any demographic.

Whether you perform the pre-employment drug tests yourself or outsource them to a third party, make sure the testing environment is secure. To prevent any possible cheating, perform the tests promptly. If you opt for a urine-based drug test, don’t let your candidate bring any purses, jackets, or bags into the bathroom. Collect the sample and use your urinalysis strips as promptly as you can, and make sure that the sample is at body temperature. When you conduct the drug testing process quickly and efficiently, the results are more likely to be accurate.

When you decide to implement pre-employment drug testing at your company, you’ve got a process ahead of you. From researching federal and state laws to picking the right testing method for your company, you have multiple factors to consider. With the help of this step-by-step procedural guide to pre-employment drug testing, you’ll make the process effective and easy for everyone. When you take care to hire clear-headed employees, your workplace productivity will skyrocket!

Pre-Employment Drug Testing: A Step-by-Step Procedural Guide


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