Drug And Alcohol Testing FAQS

Below are some common questions asked by employer/company and employee alike.

Official and authoritative guidance and interpretation as well as professional views constitute the concise discussion of answers in accordance with 49 Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR)

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR SUPERVISORS TO BE TRAINED IN DRUG AND ALCOHOL AWARENESS?

Many companies need to control substance use within the workplace to reduce risk and create a safer work environment. Even if you don’t have a drug and alcohol testing program, education promotes awareness and proactively helps you reduce incidents on the job. With drug and alcohol awareness training, you give everyone on your team the right tools to make their workplace safer and your business more productive by controlling substance abuse within your organization.

WHEN AN EMPLOYEE (TRANSPORTATION SECTOR) LEAVES AN EMPLOYER FOR A PERIOD OF TIME (BUT NOT EXCEEDING TWO YEARS) AND RETURNS TO THAT SAME EMPLOYER, MUST THE EMPLOYER ONCE AGAIN SEEK TO OBTAIN INFORMATION IT MAY HAVE RECEIVED PREVIOUSLY FROM OTHER EMPLOYERS?

No. If the information received previously is still on file with the employer, the employer need not seek to obtain the testing data again.

However, the employer must seek information from all other employers for whom the employee performed safety-sensitive duties since the employee last worked for the employer. (49 CFR Part 40)

IS IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO TEST POSITIVE FOR CANNABINOIDS IF THEY HAVE ONLY PASSIVELY INHALED MARIJUANA SMOKE FROM NEARBY SMOKERS?

No, the concentration cutoffs for THC have been set so that passive inhalation will not result in a positive test.

CAN AN EMPLOYER WISHING TO CONDUCT PRE-EMPLOYMENT ALCOHOL TESTING, DO SO?

A DOT-regulated employer (except under USCG and RSPA rules) wishing to conduct pre-employment alcohol testing under DOT authority may do so if certain conditions are met.

The testing must be accomplished for all applicants (i.e., the employer cannot select for testing some applicants and not others) and the testing must be conducted as a post-offer requirement (i.e., the employer needs to inform the applicant that he or she has the job if he or she passes a DOT alcohol test).

In addition, the testing and its consequences must comply with requirements of Part 40. (49 CFR Part 40)

IF AN APPLICANT ADMITS TO TESTING POSITIVE ON OR REFUSING TO TAKE A PRE-EMPLOYMENT TEST WITHIN THE PAST TWO YEARS, MUST THE APPLICANT BE HELD OUT OF SAFETY-SENSITIVE DUTIES IF HE OR SHE DID NOT COMPLETE THE RETURN-TO-DUTY PROCESS (i.e. THE SAP PROCESS)?

If the applicant admits that he or she had a positive or a refusal to test result on a pre-employment test, the employer is not permitted to use the applicant to perform safety-sensitive duties until and unless the applicant documents successful completion of the return-to-duty process.

This Part 40 requirement applies whether or not the pre-employment positive or refusal occurred before, on, or after August 1, 2001.

Should no proof exist that the return-to-duty process was successfully complied with by the applicant, a current return-to-duty process must occur before the individual can again perform safety-sensitive functions. (49 CFR Part 40)

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF AN EMPLOYEE’S FAILURE TO COOPERATE WITH THE TESTING PROCESS THAT WOULD CAUSE A REFUSAL TO TEST?

Part 40 highlights two examples of failure to cooperate — the employee refuses to empty pockets when instructed to do so; and the employee behaves in a confrontational way that disrupts the testing process.

Among others are: The employee fails to wash his or her hands after being directed to do so by the collector; The employee admits to the collector that he or she adulterated or substituted the specimen; and the employee is found to have a device — such as a prosthetic appliance — the purpose of which is to interfere with providing an actual urine specimen. (49 CFR Part 40)

WHAT ARE THE DOT CUT OFF LEVELS FOR ALCOHOL?

Employees who are regulated by the United States Department of Transportation (because of cross-border travel) will be suspended for 24 hours if they test at a level between and including 0.02 to 0.039. If the test result is 0.04 or higher, it is considered a violation of DOT testing program rules, and the driver cannot drive into the U.S. until he/she goes through the mandatory DOT return to duty process. For unregulated employees, there is no mandated workplace test cutoff level for alcohol, but there are recommended limits. The U.S. regulations are recognized as the gold standard for North America. In Alberta, the Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace suggests limiting breath alcohol concentration to below 0.04.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE MEDICAL REVIEW OFFICER (MRO)?

The MRO is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the testing process. He or she verifies and validates lab test documentation and results, offers specimen donors the opportunity to provide a valid medical explanation for non-negative results, and reviews relevant medical information. Following the MRO review, the MRO provides the final interpretation of the test results known as the MRO determination, and reports the MRO determination to the employer.

HOW LONG AFTER USE ARE DRUGS DETECTABLE IN URINE?

Retention time differs among individuals according to many factors, including the amount consumed, the method of drug use, whether use is chronic or occasional, individual rates of metabolism and excretion, diet, the acidity of the urine, and the concentration of the urine at the time the specimen is collected. As general guidelines:

Drug or Drug Class Approximate Retention Times
Amphetamines 1 – 2 days
Cocaine metabolites 2 – 4 days
Ethanol 2 – 14 hours
Marijuana metabolites Occasional use: 1 – 7 days Chronic use: 1 – 4 weeks
Opiates 1 – 2 days
Phencyclidine (PCP) Occasional use: 1 – 8 days Chronic use: up to 30 days

 

Sources: Federal Drug And Alcohol Testing Rules; CannAmm OTS

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