Mistakes People Make - No. 7

Published: Oct 1st, 2012

Mistakes People Make - No. 7 >>> reprinted from DATIA focus magazine

By Joe Reilly, Joe Reilly & Associates, Inc.

... Click Here for a PDF copy of the article.

This is the seventh in a series of articles that highlight actual mistakes that occur during the process of workplace drug and alcohol testing. The intent of these articles is to alert folks as to the importance of taking the time to perform drug and alcohol testing services correctly and without flaws. Of course proper training and consistent re-training is the key to preventing the mistakes that will be discussed.

For whatever reason, this has been a popular article in each issue of DATIA focus, but fortunately I am running out of mistakes to find. Hopefully we are taking heed to these mistakes and getting better at providing services to our clients. With that said, I think that this will be the last of this series of articles for now but you never know, we might need to run them again.

Many of our readers are in the business of providing drug and alcohol testing services to employers and other clients throughout the United States and perhaps internationally as well. By services, I am speaking of more than just drug and alcohol testing. Many times employer clients are being provided comprehensive programs to help them manage their substance abuse prevention efforts— whether required or not. I am finding that many providers are not 100 percent qualified to provide a compliant comprehensive drug-free workplace program. I also find many employers are not truly understanding what constitutes a drug free workplace program.

This is apparent in the Department of Transportation (DOT), non-DOT and other potentially required programs. Sometimes, programs are required by an insurance carrier, general contractors, state or federal government, and others. For example, the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires federal contractors with contracts of $100,000 or more, as well as recipients of grants from the federal government, to certify that they are maintaining a drug-free workplace. Many of these federal contractors send employees down to a local urgent care or medical facility and set up a drug testing account and believe they are maintaining a drug-free workplace. Of course this is not accurate because a drug-free workplace consists of not only drug testing but also a written company policy on substance abuse, employee education, supervisor training and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). 

There are also several other requirements of the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 that must be maintained. Employers often get contracts from other employers and those awarding the contract often require the subcontractor to maintain a drug-free workplace program. Sometimes DOT-regulated employers are requiring the subcontractors to set up a DOT drug- and alcohol-testing program when the subcontractor is clearly not regulated by DOT. These programs should not be set up as DOT program but can be set up as DOT look-a-like basically mirroring the DOT program in a non-DOT program. Educating both the subcontractor and the contracting employer on this matter is often difficult, but is as important, as DOT testing should only be done on DOT covered employees.

It is also important when a company requires its subcontractors to maintain a drug-free workplace program that the actual written requirements be reviewed. Often, the written requirements maybe very specific and actually identify the panel of drug testing to be performed and under what rules or regulations. The requirement might be consistent with a state-law program for example the Florida Drug- Free Workplace program or perhaps the requirement is to follow Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) guidelines.

The biggest mistake people make that I am seeing in the industry is with those providing DOT programs for employers. Many service agents, or TPAs, do a great job with the DOT program, but there are also many more that do not provide services in compliance with the regulations. I hear all the time about issues coming up that were handled wrong that are clearly outlined in the DOT regulations, guidelines and best practices. I often ask folks providing DOT services “Have you read over 49 CFR Part 40?” Sadly the answer is usually a smile and a response such as, “Are you kidding? It is 100 pages and puts me to sleep on page 6.” I say sadly because it is impossible to sell and provide compliant DOT drug and alcohol testing programs without reading not only 49 CFR Part 40 but also additional DOT regulations, guidelines and best practices. In fact, I tell these same folks that they better read Part 40, not only once but many times over again in order to understand and properly provide compliant DOT services.

This issue of understanding DOT regulations is so important that even collectors, as part of their requirements to be qualified as a DOT collector, must be knowledgeable about 49 CFR Part 40. Section 40.33 states: “You must be knowledgeable about this part, the current ‘DOT Urine Specimen Collection Procedures Guidelines/ and DOT agency regulations applicable to the employers for whom you perform collections, and you must keep current on any changes to these materials.”

DOT's Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) offers a comprehensive Web site (http://www.dot.gov/odapc). Anyone involved in providing DOT drug and alcohol testing services should be reviewing this Web site often and utilize all of the information it provides.

Employers should ask their collectors and their drug testing vendors, “What are your qualifications? When did you last receive training on the regulations of which you are advising me or for which you are performing regulated services such as specimen collection, breath alcohol testing and overall program management?” These are critical questions and one of the biggest mistakes I see people make. Unqualified service agents are providing services that could cause the employer to face DOT violations, fines, and perhaps lawsuits. Employers should take notice and insure that all involved in the process of their drug and alcohol testing program are trained and qualified to provide such services.

DATIA offers some great training for employers, collectors, TPAs and others involved in the drug and alcohol testing business. Visit the DATIA Web site (www. DATIA.org) to learn more about these educational and training opportunities. Proper training and consistent re-training, along with consistent policies and procedures, are the keys to preventing mistakes. Knowledge and continuing education are a requirement to be successful in the drug and alcohol testing industry. Don't be one of the people who make mistakes. Learn and acquire knowledge each and every day—do your homework each and every week. I sure hope I don’t get asked again to identify and write about Mistakes People Make-, let’s all work hard to eliminate those flaws in our industry. Employers, I urge you to use professional and qualified service providers.

Joe Reilly entered the world of drug testing in 1993, he is well known throughout the industry and considered a leading expert on workplace drug testing issues. Joe served for nine years on the DATIA Board of Directors and served as Chairman of the Board from 2004-2008. Joe is currently a Regional Certified Professional Collector Trainer (RCPCT) for DATIA and is available for DATIA CPC training in all areas of Florida. He is also active in assisting buyers and sellers in the drug testing industry work through the merger and/or acquisition processes and provides various other consulting and training services.