A responsible drug testing service provider should not only provide testing, but also help employers allay any fears that their employees may have concerning implementation of a drug and alcohol policy and testing program.
Increasingly, employers are using drug testing as a tool to reduce the risk that incidents caused by the effects of drug use in the workplace pose to their employees and the public. Employees can understandably be concerned by the introduction of drug testing to their organization, particularly when they hear stories about individuals wrongfully terminated following drug tests. Some employees’ concerns relate to the legitimate use of medication causing them to fail a drug test. Addressing these fears is an important part of the consultation and awareness-raising process that should be undertaken prior to the introduction of a drug and alcohol policy and associated testing program in any workplace.
A responsible drug testing service provider should not only provide testing, but also help employers allay any fears that their employees may have concerning implementation of a drug and alcohol policy and testing program. Some of this support can be offered as training and awareness sessions to employees and managers in the lead up to the introduction of testing. Additionally, the technical expertise of an appropriately implemented laboratory-based testing program means that it is possible to clearly differentiate between legitimate use of medication and the use of illicit drugs. This information should be explained as part of the employee awareness program.
Drug testing processes have been developed to ensure that legitimate use of medication is identified as such and does not result in a failed drug test. The medical review process is critical in ensuring that legitimate use of medication is identified. Medical review is carried out after completion of the laboratory analysis. The laboratory toxicologist will conduct an initial review of the result and indicate if it is consistent with any declared medication. However, the toxicologist is not a qualified physician, and so cannot discuss the result with the employee. For this type of discussion, a physician is required.
The use of an MRO to independently review drug testing results is a key part of a drug testing program, which is in place to ensure an individual using prescribed medication is not penalized in the workplace.
Uniquely qualified physicians known as Medical Review Officers (MRO) are able to discuss the use of medication with the employee, and can check for any prescribed medication with their general practitioner. If the MRO is satisfied that there is a legitimate medical reason for the positive finding, they will report the result as “pass” or “negative, consistent with declared medication.” This important feature of the drug testing process safeguards the employee from being penalized when a legitimate medication causes a drug test failure.
The MRO is medically qualified and has an understanding of issues related to drug use and abuse as well as sample collection and laboratory processes associated with drug abuse testing. Some organizations have their own occupational health physicians who act as MROs for their drug and alcohol testing program. Other organizations that lack their own occupational health physicians use an independent MRO to support their drug testing program. An independent MRO may also be used by employers who wish to keep the MRO process completely separate from their own organization. Where this service is used, the result of the drug test is not normally reported to the employer until the independent MRO has completed their review. This ensures the employee does not come under any undue suspicion while the medical review is being conducted.
A properly implemented drug testing program not only sensitises employees to the process and keeps them informed through each step, but protects them from wrongful termination by conducting a thorough medical review. The goal of every workplace drug and alcohol policy and testing program is to ensure the safety of an organization’s employees and customers, and the testing and review process is integral to that objective.
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