Reasons for Testing

Our scientific experts have analyzed and published annual workplace drug testing data and insights since 1988 in the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI). After the initiation of drug testing programs by employers in the 1980s, overall positivity rates began to decline. Employers saw how the power of drug-free workplace programs deterred employee substance abuse and discouraged job applicants who use drugs from applying at their companies. These positivity declines were also reflected in post-accident drug testing.

It has been several years since the Drug Testing Index reported on trends for a specific reason for testing. In the latest release, Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Director of Science and Technology, Quest Diagnostics, noted that over the past five years, there have been small increases in post-accident positivity rates in urine drug testing that have collectively led to dramatic changes. When reviewed cumulatively, the data shows a significant increase in positive post-accident drug tests for both the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive and U.S. general workforces.

According to DTI data, post-accident drug testing:

  • Is up 6.2 percent in 2015 in the general U.S. workforce when compared to 2014 (6.9% versus 6.5%)
  • Increased 30 percent since 2011 (5.3%) in the general U.S.
  • Rose 22 percent during a five-year time period (2.8% in 2015 versus 2.3% in 2011) for the safety-sensitive workforce

“Year-over-year positivity for post-accident testing was trending down in the 2000s. Yet, consecutive increases in the last five years should give employees pause to think about the potential impact of drug use and its threat to workplace safety,” said Dr. Barry Sample.

Also referred to as “post-incident testing,” post-accident drug testing is performed after an employee has been involved in a workplace accident and is used as an aid to assess if drugs were a factor in the incident. Post-accident testing is an important resource for companies, especially those focused on workplace health and safety.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

periodic.jpgPeriodic drug testing is scheduled and is typically performed on current employees at consistent time periods throughout the year. Many companies choose to perform annual periodic testing – especially if employees are required to undergo an annual physical. Since periodic testing is a scheduled, announced test, it can present a drawback in that employees who do use drugs are sometimes able to cease their drug use or otherwise take measures to undermine the integrity of their drug test results. Periodic testing is not a part of the DOT’s 49 CFR Part 40 Rules and within the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce is associated with US Coast Guard testing requirements.

Positivity Rates

Results from the 2014 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) show that periodic urine drug tests in the general U.S. workforce had a 1.6 percent positivity rate and a 0.9 percent positivity rate in the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce.

Testing Prevalence

Data gathered from Quest Diagnostics show that in 2014, follow-up tests accounted for only 0.5 percent of general U.S. workforce urine drug tests and only 0.2 percent of tests performed in the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce. Furthermore, similar to random drug testing, some states and cities do not allow employers to perform periodic drug testing.

Specimen Types

While lab-based urine testing is the only approved method for use in federally-mandated, safety-sensitive drug testing, oral fluid and hair testing are also suitable specimens for periodic drug testing programs.

In Conclusion

Each reason for testing has its place and purpose in helping to create and maintain a drug-free workplace. Periodic testing is no different. This testing tends to be a simple program to manage, as it runs a low risk of bias and requires no special training since all employees are equally subjected to testing. When used in combination with other reasons for testing, or as alluded to earlier, in combination with other employee screening programs – like physical exams – periodic testing can help minimize employee drug use.

As the final post in our Reasons for Testing Series, periodic testing, in additional to pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident testing, etc., all have their place in the applicant and employee drug testing realm. While they each have their individual strengths and limitations, their collective ability to detect and deter drug use is most evident when multiple reasons for testing are employed in combination.

For more information about drug testing, specimen types, reasons for testing and how to create a drug-free workplace, visit our website or contact us online.

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.

Reasons for Testing: Follow-up Drug Testing

March 8, 2016Drug Testing

Follow-up drug testing is for employees who have previously tested positive for illicit substances or violated a company’s drug and alcohol policy. Follow-up testing is usually performed in conjunction with return-to-duty drug testing. Follow-up testing is performed after an initial return-to-duty test, and is only completed if the employee tests negative for drugs on the […]

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Reasons for Testing: Return-to-Duty Drug Testing

February 1, 2016Drug Testing

Return-to-duty drug testing is for employees who have previously tested positive for illicit substances or violated a company’s drug and alcohol policy. For both the general U.S. workforce and the federally-mandated safety sensitive workforce, return-to-duty drug testing is a single test that is performed at a scheduled time, typically following the completion of a drug […]

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Reasons for Testing: Post-Accident Drug Testing

January 4, 2016Drug Testing

As 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 […]

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Reasons for Testing: Reasonable Suspicion or For Cause Drug Testing

December 8, 2015Drug Testing

Reasonable suspicion testing, also known as for cause drug testing, is performed when supervisors have evidence or reasonable cause to suspect an employee of drug use. Evidence is based upon direct observation, either by a supervisor or another employee. Specific reasons for reasonable suspicion testing include physical evidence of illicit substances, patterns of erratic or […]

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Reasons for Testing: Random Drug Testing

November 6, 2015Drug Testing

Random, or “spot,” drug testing is a strong deterrent to drug users because it is conducted on an unannounced basis. Using a random selection process (e.g., computer-generated), an employer selects one or more individuals from all the employees included in the employer’s workplace drug-testing program. By using a random selection process, employers ensure that there […]

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Reasons for Testing: Pre-Employment Drug Testing

October 6, 2015Drug Testing

Pre-employment drug testing is the most common type of drug testing performed. Employers typically use it to proactively protect themselves from the negative impacts of hiring drug users. Pre-employment testing is usually performed after a conditional offer of employment has been made and a negative drug test result is required before an applicant starts working. […]

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Reasons for Testing: Introduction

September 17, 2015Drug Testing

According to the latest data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 24.6 million Americans age 12 or over are current drug users, and 68.9 percent of these illicit drug users are employed full-time or part-time. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that drug use in the workplace costs employers $81 billion […]

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