Passing the test

According to Sanford Health, 77 percent of illegal drug users are employed and one in 10 full-time employees report an alcohol problem. These statistics seem to prove that drug testing is vital to the safety and viability of any business.

Sanford Health will be holding free informational lunch-and-learn sessions for area business leaders who want to know more about drug and alcohol testing programs within the workplace. Sessions will be held from noon to 1 p.m. May 7 in Dickinson, May 8 in Bismarck and May 9 in Minot. Lunch will be provided, but pre-registration is required by Thursday and space is limited.

This session is open only to business leaders who are interested in implementing or enhancing a drug testing program within their workplace. Interested business leaders can call 323-8333 or email occmedwest@sanfordhealth.org to begin the registration process.

There will be a wide variety of drug testing related topics discussed at the informational sessions. Jennifer McGregor, drug testing manager for Sanford Health, said they will discuss why drug tests are conducted, the definition of testing and methodology of testing, discuss the kinds of drugs that people use, offer help in establishing a drug policy and why it’s important, make known a list of services available if someone has a drug problem, and help companies understand regulations set by the Department of Transportation. They will also talk about collection sites for the drug tests and if the company is following the proper procedure, especially with DOT guidelines, she said, because there are a lot of legal ramifications if the sites aren’t following the proper procedure.

Other areas that will be discussed at the sessions include looking at components to testing because companies don’t always know what’s important to look for, making sure employees are aware of their company’s testing policy, reviewing it and making sure it’s being taken seriously from the top down; discussing random selection pools for drug or alcohol testing that some companies choose to use; discussing the policy for reasonable suspicion; training options for employees; and discussing the process of what happens if a test comes up positive.

“These sessions hit the fine details,” McGregor said, like what to expect when you go in to take a drug test and what things you need to bring along. The DOT website has good ideas for forms to use, she added. “It’s good to explain all that and have less confusion. It’s good for businesses to be familiar with who they’re working with.”

Sanford Health has testing supplies at their clinic and will ask the business what kind of test they want to use, McGregor explained. This class will primarily be based on managing a drug testing program, she added.

McGregor said nicotine testing has typically not been seen on the drug and alcohol side, but she has seen companies test for nicotine on a wellness side. Some companies will offer rewards to employees for passing a nicotine test, she added. Drug and alcohol testing is seen as a safety factor, though, and they’re looking primarily at illegal drugs, McGregor pointed out, but as health care costs rise, nicotine testing may be included.

Companies conduct drug and alcohol tests for different reasons, such as prior to employment or random testing, McGregor said. The company decides how often employees will be tested, whether it be monthly or quarterly, she continued, so there are a lot of variations in time and type of testing.

“We have seen increases in drug and alcohol tests as the population increases,” McGregor said. The increase in rates kind of go up proportionately, she added. “It’s wise to have a drug testing program established.”

Some key signs to look for in an employee who may be abusing drugs or alcohol include work performance or behavior, McGregor said. Sometimes the person’s eyes can be a big indicator, she continued, or the person’s speech or in how the person is walking, if he or she is abusing alcohol.

The state is growing and people sometimes jump from job to job, McGregor offered as an explanation for why drug and alcohol testing in the workplace has become such an issue. “Companies need to be proactive and let their employees know there’s a policy in place,” she said. Sometimes employers see bits and pieces of drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace and training for what to do if there’s a problem and signs to look for, like putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, would help, McGregor said.