Reasons for testing: Post-accident drug testing

accident.jpgAs its name indicates, post-accident – sometimes referred to as “post-incident” – drug testing is performed after an employee has been involved in a workplace accident. Testing is used to determine whether drugs were a factor in the incident. Employers who implement post-accident drug testing must establish objective criteria for how and when testing will occur. Some examples of criteria include fatalities, injuries that required medical assistance, police citations or damages to a vehicle or property above a specified monetary amount. Although the result of a post-accident test may determine drug use, a positive result in and of itself cannot prove that drug use caused an accident.

Post-accident testing should be done within 12 hours of the incident, since different drugs may have different windows of detection. Generally, employees should not return to work until after test results have been received.

Positivity Rates

Results from the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) show that, as with all previously discussed reasons for testing, positivity rates in the general U.S. workforce were higher than those in federally-mandated, safety-sensitive positions. The positivity rate for federally-mandated, post-accident urine drug tests was 2.6 percent in 2014, while 6.5 percent of post-accident urine drug test results from the general U.S. workforce were positive.

Testing Prevalence

Additional data from the DTI shows that in 2014, post-accident tests accounted for 6.3 percent of general U.S. workforce urine drug tests and 2.7 percent of tests in the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce.

Specimen Types

Currently, urine is the only specimen type permitted for federally-mandated drug testing programs. In the general U.S. workforce, as with reasonable suspicion drug testing, urine and oral fluid are appropriate post-accident testing specimen types. This is due to their ability to detect recent drug use and its potential involvement in the accident. In contrast, hair testing, which represents long term patterns of repetitive use, is not appropriate for post-accident drug testing. Leveraging data from the DTI for post-accident drug tests in the general U.S. workforce, positivity rates were as follows for both specimen types:

  • Urine – 6.5 percent
  • Oral fluid – 4.9 percent

In Conclusion

Unlike most of the other reasons for testing we will cover in this series, post-accident testing is less about avoiding hiring a drug using applicant or discouraging drug use among employees. Instead it’s used as an aid in assessing whether unsafe work practices may be related to drug use. Moreover, employers in certain states may be eligible for certain benefits related to workers’ compensation insurance premiums and claims if they participate in their state’s voluntary drug free workplace programs that typically includes both pre-employment and post-accident drug testing. That said, there is also peace of mind that comes from discounting the impact of drug use as a potential influence in an accident. As a result, post-accident drug testing is one more resource at an employer’s disposal as they work to improve health and safety while reducing cost and risk as part of a comprehensive workplace drug testing program.

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Employers design drug-free workplace programs to protect their organizations from the adverse impacts of drug abuse and promote productivity, health and safety. Every drug testing type and method has its strengths and employers must choose which works best for their organizations.

This blog series explores the different reasons for drug testing, the frequency of each and the specific pros and cons each one provides. Read the introductory post to learn more about the series.