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Why Should Employers Instant Drug Test Employees?

As a manager or business owner, you have so much on your mind, day-in and day-out. From training and development to your ongoing marketing strategy, there's plenty to consider when aiming to grow your company. However, some of the most critical yet simple areas to address are ignored within specific workplaces, including employee drug testing.

Research shows that in 2019, employee drug use was at a 14-year high.

However, the vast majority of employers do not make drug screening a priority, and only 1.47 percent of job postings in the United States mention required pre-employment drug tests.

This guide covers the risks and rewards associated with an instant drug testing program and the types of drug test kits available.

Why Implement a Drug Testing Program?

The United States military has a random drug testing and a zero-tolerance policy, which have shown to be strong deterrents to drug use.

Although the military has its own reasons, employers are also becoming increasingly concerned about drug use in the workplace. Is implementing an instant drug testing program ideal when facing potential consequences such as lost productivity and safety hazards?

Research shows that instant drug tests curb drug use in three ways:

The fear of getting caught
The probability of punishment
The severity of that punishment
Certain industries are more likely to require employee drug testing, such as government, education, transportation, construction, manufacturing and automotive. In most cases, safety is a top concern. For example, impairment is a significant concern in industries like mining, forestry and oil and gas, where the risk of injury is high.

The idea here is that employers see the risks involved. If they have employees performing safety-sensitive jobs, impairment could result in them hurting themselves or someone else as well as landing the company in legal issues. So, what about office jobs and industries that are not necessarily dangerous?

The answer lies in instant drug testing implementation's overall risks and rewards. Just because a work environment is not necessarily dangerous doesn't mean it would not benefit from a drug-testing program, particularly concerning productivity, employee morale and a reduction in litigation risk.

Substance Abuse Is a Growing Problem

For years, employers began shying away from drug testing programs. However, this is starting to change as substance abuse continues to rise in the United States.

Substance abuse was already on an upward trend before COVID-19 hit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 2020, 13 percent of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with the stress of the pandemic.

As alcohol and drug use surged, this issue was brought back into the spotlight. The most common drugs fueling substance abuse include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and opioids. In response to rising concerns, companies are taking a range of approaches. After all, substance abuse costs companies $442 billion a year in healthcare costs, absenteeism and lost productivity.

The key is knowing when to test and what that means for employees.

Knowing When To Test Employees

If you implement a drug testing program for the first time or update a previous program, it's critical to know when to test employees. You have several options.

Pre-employment testing involves a required drug test during the hiring and screening process
Randomly testing to promote a drug-free workplace
Testing following an incident, such as an accident
Testing when there are observable behaviors that increase suspicion
Pre-employment is the most common approach. Testing during this stage of the hiring process allows employers to determine which candidates are using drugs before they are trained and integrated into the company. There is a clear distinction here because, unlike an employee, an applicant does not yet work for you.

Related: What Shows Up on a Pre-Employment Drug Test?

Random drug testing is most commonly seen in safety-sensitive jobs, particularly where employees regularly operate heavy equipment, drive or work in a dangerous environment. For example, pre-employment drug testing is required for several federal programs and regulations, including the Department of Transportation (DOT). Taking this approach, much like the military, is a fairly effective deterrent because employees never know when they might be tested.

Regardless of when you test employees, you must understand the laws on drug testing in your state. This is particularly important for multistate employers. Laws vary based on location, so you must remain compliant. From a federal standpoint, most workplace drug-testing programs are permissible under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

What the Research Says

Whether it be missed work because of drug use or poor decision-making, leading to loss of production or workplace accidents, there is a cost of not testing employees. More accidents mean higher insurance rates, more compensation claims and a greater risk of legal implications, not to mention the high cost of turnover.

When studying pre-employment testing, one study found that those who tested positive for illegal drugs upon application showcased a 28 percent higher turnover rate and a 64 percent higher rate of disciplinary action. However, this study did not show a link between drug test results and job performance in this particular environment. Although this is an excellent gatekeeping tool, it is not the only option to yield results.

For-cause testing, such as post-accident testing, certainly has its time and place, as does random testing. The fear of a looming drug test is obvious, but what is interesting is that this approach may also lower accident rates. Research shows that workplaces that randomly administer drug tests report lower accident rates than groups who are not tested, regardless of testing frequency.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Rapid Drug Tests

When considering a drug program for your workplace, you need to consider all variables. This include factors such as:

Cost
Risk mitigation, including safety and liability risks
Employee experience
Accountability
Where risk mitigation is concerned, drug testing is often a no-brainer. Drug testing could prevent accidents and the associated costs of health issues and the cost of potential litigation and absenteeism. From a productivity and risk management standpoint, drug testing is highly beneficial. However, some companies are worried that such screening programs will negatively affect company culture and employee satisfaction.

Although it's essential to consider the value of rapid drug tests in your workplace, here are some benefits of doing so.

Reduce Employee Healthcare and Insurance Costs

Accidents happen. However, if you can take proactive action, reducing the risk of such accidents, this can help you avoid costs associated with injuries where impairment was likely the root cause. Again, pre-employment drug testing is an effective approach. Hiring a drug user could prevent a potentially costly health and safety situation in the future because of impaired functioning.

Improves Employee Performance While Reducing Absenteeism and Turnover

Several studies have shown that drug testing can improve performance and productivity. One of the most compelling studies conducted involved the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). This study was sponsored by the federal government and involved 5,465 applicants across nine months. Of the 4,375 applicants who were hired, 395 had tested positive (63 percent for marijuana, 24 percent for cocaine and 11 percent for all other drugs combined). These individuals were not aware of the study.

Data was collected at 1.3, 2.4 and 3.3 years. When comparing the “test-positive” group to those who tested negative, those using displayed significantly hirer rates of involuntary turnover, absenteeism, being referred to the company's employee assistance program and disciplinary actions. USPS estimated that it would have saved millions if it had not hired members in the test-positive group, saving approximately $52 million in two years alone.

Providing a Safe Workplace for All

As an employer, you want to create a workplace environment that reduces on-site accidents and crime risk. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 50 percent of workplace accidents and 40 percent of employee theft are related to drug abuse.

The benefits for you, the employer, are extensive — but employees also benefit. Employees want to work in an environment they feel is safe and secure. Sadly, substance abuse can lead to serious accidents and even on-the-job facilities, with alcohol and drugs being related to one in six work fatalities.

Other benefits include:

Greater compliance with state and federal regulations, especially if you operate in a safety-sensitive industry.
Improvements in employee morale and a positive company culture.
Enhanced productivity.
The ability to identify and refer employees struggling with drugs and/or alcohol.
Instant Drug Tests vs. Lab-Based Tests

For employers interested in adding a drug-testing program, you must create a drug policy and then compare your options for testing methods.

So, how do instant drug tests (or rapid tests) compare to lab-based tests?

As its name implies, an instant drug test results rapidly, usually within minutes. The results are negative (drugs are not present) or non-negative (drugs are present). These tests are typically administered as instant urine drug tests or instant oral drug tests, which rely on saliva to test the specimen in question.

In contrast, a lab-based test is more rigorous, takes longer to yield results and requires a sample to be sent to a lab. The difference is a lab test can identify a specific chemical makeup. However, this avenue is only necessary under certain circumstances, such as when a company needs a more comprehensive analysis. For example, if the company may need to defend itself in court.

From a financial standpoint, instant testing is a much cheaper yet still reliable option.

Since instant drug tests provide nearly immediate results, are cost-effective and allow for on-site testing, they are the obvious choice for most employers. However, lab-based testing is necessary for some employers based on industry regulations or a company's objectives.

If you find that instant drug testing is the route for you, you then need to compare the two different types — instant urine drug tests vs. instant oral drug tests. Saliva may seem like the ideal choice because it's quick, easy and doesn't require restroom facilities; this method isn't overly accurate. Drugs only stay in saliva for two to three days compared to up to 30 days for urine.

It's also important to note that most labs will not confirm the results of a saliva test because this method is typically only used for forensic purposes. If possible, it's best to opt for urine tests based on these reasons. This method is more accurate and can be checked by an independent lab.

Of course, not all instant drug tests are created equal. That is why it's crucial to find tests that are easy to administer, FDA-cleared and able to test for the most commonly abused drugs.

Introducing Origin

Origin is the leader in instant drug tests — we were also one of the first companies to sell these tests. After launching in 1998 origin has grown to become the source for instant drug tests, screening services and occupational health services. Since Origin's early days, we have evolved to offer support throughout the drug testing process.

With the Origin Instant Drug Test, you can test up to 14 drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, phencyclidine and more.

However, several options range from four-panel tests to 12-panel tests. The test cups are CLIA Waived. This certification means they are an excellent choice for personal and professional use. After collecting a urine sample, you will receive the test results in five minutes. Easy to read and interpret, drug testing no longer needs to be an overwhelmingly complex process.

These instant drug tests are also:

FDA-cleared
Over 99 percent accurate
Made in the USA
If the instant drug test comes back positive, you can send your tests to our Medical Review Officer, who then digitally send you the results.

Drug testing employees offer many benefits and instant drug tests make the process more accessible and easy than ever. Schedule a demo to discover more today!

Footnotes

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