Drug Testing Questions asked at OGOSH Conference
Written by Lucas Kibby, CleanFleet
The Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety & Health Conference (GOSH) is the largest safety and health conference in the Northwest and one of the largest in the United States.
The goal of GOSH is to provide an educational forum where employers, safety and health professionals, safety committee members, line supervisors, manufacturers, and distributors can come to gain state of the art knowledge and skills leading to self-sufficiency in their occupational safety and health programs.
“This event provides a unique opportunity for organizations to breathe new life into their commitment to on-the-job safety and health,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “Everyone from professionals in the field to employers, supervisors and workers on the front lines can use GOSH as a fresh reminder of why workplace health and safety matters.”
Questions asked related to Drug and Alcohol Testing and Workplace Policies
How is Oral Testing different than other methods and what are its benefits?
We received a lot of questions around oral (saliva) testing. Right now the most widely used testing method is laboratory-based urine drug testing and often leads employers to believe this method is the safest bet for their company. This may not always be true.
Like urine, oral fluid testing detects recent drug use and may also identify very recent usage that may not be captured by urine testing: detection window of 8-48 hours vs 2-7 days for urine testing.
Saliva tests actually measure the parent compound: the psychoactive element of the drug. Detection of the parent compound in saliva indicates that the drug has entered the blood stream. Higher levels of the parent compound indicate higher levels of the drug contained within the body. This means that saliva levels can be used to measure impairment. In contrast, urine tests do not measure the parent compound, they measure the by-product compounds known as “metabolites”, which do not correspond with impairment levels.
Interestingly, based on recent Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index data, the overall positivity rate is higher for almost all drugs and more than twice the positivity for marijuana.
Today, oral fluid is also being considered for federally-regulated drug testing, such as for the trucking industry (some expect a ruling by October of this year). Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published proposed Oral Fluid Mandatory Guidelines in the Federal Register, a first step towards permitting the use of oral fluid specimens for Federal drug testing.
Are police or companies able to instant test for impairment of Marijuana yet?
This question came up a lot and the short answer is No. However, Stanford researchers have devised a potential solution, applying magnetic nanotechnology, previously used as a cancer screen, to create what could be the first practical roadside test for marijuana intoxication.
The Stanford device might function as a practical “potalyzer” because it can quickly detect not just the presence of THC in a person’s saliva, but also measure its concentration.
However, this device may not be ready for another year and then would have to go through certification for approval of use for government agencies.
Can we still test for Marijuana in states where it is legal?
The Short answer is Yes. As the legal landscape surrounding marijuana continues to change, employers need to establish a drug-free workplace policy.
Understanding and following the local, state and Federal laws surrounding marijuana, and drug testing in general, is very important. For example, some states do not allow termination of employment for the first offense when tested positive for any drug.
Marijuana and its negative effects on the body and workplace risks should not be tolerated if health and safety is the main concern for a business, especially in safety-sensitive work roles, as should be the case with alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
How should companies approach the updated OSHA rule on post-accident testing?
If OSHA believes an employer’s drug testing policy deters injury reporting, the penalties can be quite steep. The new rule increases an employer’s obligation to ensure that employees report work-related injuries and illnesses.
Specifically, employers must establish “a reasonable procedure” for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly and accurately.
To avoid the penalties employers should focus on overbroad post-accident policy language and consider testing that is more narrowly tailored to at least show recent illegal drug use (for example, oral fluids testing).
As an example, policies could be tightened to tie post-accident testing to situations in which an employee caused or contributed to the accident and property damage is a level estimated by the employer (for example, $1,000).
A company could also detail situations where the person who caused the accident and injury of another employee (who is usually tested) could be drug tested if it meets various standards in the policy.