5 Guidelines – Are You Equipped to Be a DER?
Written by Lucas Kibby, CleanFleet
A company’s Designated Employer Representative (DER) has a vital role that bears a lot of responsibility in managing the company’s drug and alcohol testing policy and processes.
The DER oversees the entire testing program and is the primary stakeholder with regards to workplace safety. Primary duties include complying with federal, state, and local laws, receiving confidential information such as test results, handling issues and problems that arise in the testing process, ensuring everyone in the company is properly trained and managing an active participant list.
As such, every DER should have the knowledge and authority to make decisions about their employer’s drug and alcohol testing program. Third-party administrators (TPAs), like CleanFleet, can assist with many of these functions, however, TPAs cannot make decisions on behalf of the employer. The DER must work hand in hand with its TPA in order to implement a successful testing program.
With all the different pieces of information coming from several sources, it’s important for a company to know that a single person manages the daily drug testing operations for an employer.
5 Guidelines – Are You Equipped to Be a DER?
DERs must be on the company’s payroll
Many companies outsource their drug testing management roles to third-party providers (TPAs), like CleanFleet. However, the role of the DER cannot be outsourced. Not only is this role required under federal regulations, the DER must have authority within the company to make important drug testing decisions.
The DER’s responsibilities usually fall to company owners, human resources managers, safety managers, drug and alcohol program managers, and/or supervisors overseeing safety sensitive employees. Every company covered by DOT regulations that employs safety-sensitive employees, must have one (or more) designated employer representative. With the various responsibilities required with the role, the knowledge and training to stay updated on policy rules and regulations, and the various recordkeeping tasks, the DER is usually a full-time or near full-time employee.
DERs must be available at all times
We have seen lots of companies who give their DER responsibilities to the company’s secretary. This is not in the company’s best interest as the DER must be available at all times should an employee need immediate assistance regarding the drug and alcohol policy. The DER needs to make sure there are procedures in place to to reach someone after normal working hours.
For example, the DER must be available if a company’s driver was involved in an accident during the middle of the night and needs help with answering questions or walking through the next steps under company policy.
DERs are tasked with safety of the workforce and the public
An effective drug testing program promotes a safe and productive workplace. The DER is in a position to maintain the standard of safety, not only of the company’s workforce but for the public as well. Just imagine if a construction worker, truck driver, or pilot was not removed from their safety-sensitive role after having a positive drug or alcohol test and caused a major accident. The DER helps prevent much of this risk.
However, support is needed from the top management in order for safety for the workforce and the public to be a priority. If management is only focused on staying compliant with the law and nothing more, the effectiveness of the drug and alcohol testing program is limited.
DERs must have the power to take drivers off the road
The DER is authorized by the employer to take immediate action to remove or cause employees to be removed from safety-sensitive duties and to make decisions required in the drug testing and evaluation process. For companies regulated by the DOT, the DER must have the authority to take the driver off the road.
For example, if a driver fails a drug or alcohol test by testing positive to a drug test, or registering a 0.04 or greater alcohol content, the result requires the driver to be immediately removed from performing safety-sensitive functions (i.e., driving CMVs) until successful completion of the return-to-duty process with a DOT-qualified substance abuse professional (SAP).
After a drug or alcohol test, there is a 24-48 hour window where the driver can continue driving. Unfortunately, we have seen companies that are unprepared in recovering the truck or load if a driver’s results come back positive. There needs to be procedures in place if the driver is forced to stop driving. This could include sending a dispatcher, manager, or a driver not yet on the road to recover the truck and finish the delivery.
DERs need a complete understanding of the Rules and his or her duties under Federal Regulations
The role of the DER is vital to keeping the company in compliance with DOT regulations, therefore he or she must be thoroughly familiar with state and federal regulations, company policy, union agreements, and daily operating procedures.
Why? The DER has authority to make decisions about the testing process and answer questions about it. In order to make proper decisions and handle all aspects of the DOT drug and alcohol testing program, the DER needs a complete understanding of the Rules and his or her duties under federal regulations.