HR Magazine: Are Your Employee Drug Tests Accurate?


Jan 1, 2003

HR Magazine, January 2003Vol. 48, No. 1

How to Ensure Accurate Drug Tests

Have a policy. “The most important thing employers can do is set up a policy stating the consequences for diluted or adulterated tests,” says Laura Shelton, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association in Alexandria, Va. “Put it in writing, circulate it and have employees acknowledge in writing that they read and understood it.”

Tell employees about the law. If you operate in a state that has criminalized test fraud, make sure employees know about it. If you operate under federal rules, make sure they know that someone who substitutes or adulterates urine is treated as having refused testing. The consequences are failure to hire or removal from duty.

Consider stricter rules of your own. Private companies can have more stringent dilution or adulteration cutoffs, or more severe consequences for cheating than for testing positive.

Decrease notice before testing. “More applicants give diluted specimens than people who are randomly tested, because they have more time,” says Donna Smith, Ph.D., senior vice president of Substance Abuse Management Inc. (SAMI) in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We test employees on the same day they apply,” says Herb DeGroft, HR manager at Smithfield Packing in Smithfield, Va.

Limit employees’ movement. “Keep them in the room on testing days, don’t give them access to lockers, and escort them to the test site,” says Deborah Moore of the Texas Transportation Department. Moore has seen workers attempt to substitute urine.

Train supervisors. “Make sure they know how to spot someone who’s hiding urine for substitution,” she says.

Consider saliva or hair testing.“It’s virtually impossible to cheat on hair or saliva tests,” says Smith. “Current DOT rules don’t allow it. Otherwise, it’s an option.”

However, some companies, such as Nevada-based, advertise products—including mouthwash and shampoo—that are designed to help employees defraud these tests, as well.

Use a knowledgeable lab.“Make sure they do dilution and adulterant testing,” says Shelton. “They should be checking for fraud by smell, color, temperature, floating particles or foaming.”

Set up a peer referral system. Co-workers know when someone has tried to beat a test.

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