DOT Drug Testing and the Workplace: The What and Why


Drug testing is becoming a common occurrence in companies. Not only for job applicants and future employees, but also for current employees who have demanding manual jobs. It helps identifying evidence of recent use of illegal drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs that can hinder the performance of employees. 

But why is it necessary for companies to have a decent drug and alcohol abuse regulation in place? And why should substance testing be part of its policy? We dive deep into the workplace and drug testing, read along to learn more. 


Addiction at Work

Employees who have a substance addiction can cause a lot of problems for their employer and coworkers. When individuals struggle to keep recreational socializing with alcohol at home, the effects on work productivity and the working environment is disastrous. 

In the same way, drug addiction causes distress in the workplace. Read this to learn more about the facts and statistics of drug addiction. This is why employers should remain vigilant when it comes to their employee’s behavior. Spotting the indicators of substance abuse is important as it will ensure a safe and risk-free working environment. 

Especially for workers who have to work with heavy machinery or in dangerous environments, it’s even more important that they are completely aware when operating at work. Being intoxicated while working can cause horrible accidents and in some cases even fatality. 


Why Should Companies Perform Drug Tests? 

There are loads of reasons why employers should conduct drug testing. Here is a short list of the main reasons why: 

  • Prevents hazardous and unsafe working environment
  • Prevents other health and safety hazards
  • For employees in safety-sensitive positions like driving heavy vehicles or manual operated machinery
  • Ensure that employee morale and productivity is at an optimal height at all times
  • Prevents additional future costs that might occur because of short-term disability claims and other health care claims
  • To ensure the hiring of individuals who are currently abusing substances
  • Prevents current employees from abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Assist and help employees to seek professional help during the early stages of substance abuse
  • Provide a safe and secure workplace for all employees
  • To comply with Federal regulations and State or Country laws
  • To protect clients, general public, and coworkers
  • To benefit from discount programs offered by workers’ compensation

All companies and managers have to follow the right protocol when it comes to drug testing. Especially for businesses that have high risk environments, there should be a decent substance abuse policy set in place to which employees should adhere to. 


How Does Testing in the Workplace Work?

Unless the company is subjected to Federal regulations for employees in safety-sensitive positions, companies can implement their own drug testing regulations that fits their business. 

All federal agencies that are licensed to perform drug tests like the DOT drug and alcohol program have to follow a standardized procedure. This procedure is established by the country’s department of health and human services or by mental health and substance abuse administrations. 

Under these guidelines the following processes are required to ensure accuracy of the results: 

Initial Screening: This screening is the first test done on an employee. In some cases, the initial screening might present a false negative. When a positive is reported a secondary test should be performed to confirm the outcome. 

Chain of Custody: This is the documentation process of which a sample (usually urine or blood) is collected, tested, and discarded of. This process is extremely important to administer and monitor, since it’s during the handling process that samples might get tampered with. The chain of custody documents the entire process from its collection to its depository. 

Confirmation Assessment: Once the initial screening has come out positive, a confirmation test should be done. A confirmation test is much more thorough and accurate. For a test to be reported as positive the initial test and the confirmation assessment have to be in correlation. 

Split Sampling: If a urine sample is used for the initial screening, then it should be split into two different samples. When the first sample is tested positive, the second sample should go through the confirmation assessment. 

This gives the employee the choice to request that the sample is tested at another laboratory. 

When both samples are tested positive a licensed medical practitioner will have to review the results. 

When Can an Employer Conduct a Drug Test?

In certain scenarios, an employer can request that a worker go for a drug test. These tests can be conducted either before employment, after an on-site accident, or when there is reasonable suspicion. Especially in some industries it’s important to make sure that potential candidates aren’t abusing illegal substances. As this will have a negative effect on the business and might even have legal consequences. 

Accidents in the workspace might occur due to substance abuse. Especially if there are vehicles or heavy machinery involved. The employer can request that a drug test be done when there are injuries or fatalities.  

If you don’t follow up on your suspicions that employees might be using drugs and working while intoxicated, you’ll regret it. Be aware of all the signs and dangers of substance abuse in the workplace by reading this article: 

In other instances, like post-rehabilitation, pre-promotion, probationary, voluntary, follow-up, or return-to-duty testing can also be conducted. Typically, tests are conducted impromptu to ensure a drug-free workplace. 


Different Methods of Testing

Depending on the organization’s rules and regulations the following methods of drug testing can be used:

  • Breath-alcohol test to evaluate alcohol levels in blood
  • Urine, blood, hair, saliva, and sweat specimens to evaluate what substance is in the body


All employers should make sure that they have a drug-testing program in place. This will give them a legal foot to stand on in order to take next steps when suspicious and secure the safety of their workers.