When Testing Saves a Life

Workplace drug testing serves several essential purposes, sometimes far more vital and well beyond the boundaries of the workplace.

There are six common types of workplace drug testing; pre-employment, random, post-accident, for-cause or reasonable suspicion, return to work and accelerated or follow-up testing. Reasonable suspicion or “for-cause” testing is perhaps the most difficult “type” of workplace drug testing. A supervisor must have a working knowledge of their employees’ normal range of behavior and performance and be able to identify where there is a departure from that normal range, and that, as momentous as it is, is the easy part. Once identified, they must assess whether there is some reasonable explanation for the change. Without an answer, the supervisor must ask the employee to explain what has caused the difference in performance or behavior. Sometimes, there is a reasonable explanation for the change, perhaps a minor illness, a sick child, or some other transitory disruption. In some cases, the supervisor’s direct questioning of the employee reveals signs or symptoms of impairment caused by the suspected misuse of alcohol or a prohibited substance.

When mood or mind-altering substances result in deteriorating performance, the supervisor must call for reasonable suspicion or a “for-cause” drug and or alcohol test. No supervisor wants to be in this position; many will ignore, avoid or delay dealing with the impaired person in hopes that the problem will go away, and it will not. Too often, managers or supervisors think that sending someone for a test is doing something terrible to that employee. Testing an employee because of workplace impairment creates a crisis that often fosters change.

Daryl recently shared his experience of being required to take a reasonable suspicion drug test. Daryl reported that he started smoking marijuana in eighth grade (an average age for the initiation of experimentation with alcohol or drugs). In high school, a successful football player with prospects for a college scholarship to play, Daryl, suffered a knee injury that changed his plans. With more time on his hands, Daryl’s marijuana use increased, and he began experimenting with other drugs, including heroin. Daryl’s drug use continued and escalated over the next 20 years. He suffered various losses associated with his use of drugs and alcohol.

One day at work, while working under the influence driving a forklift, his boss came to him and questioned him about whether he’d been drinking. Daryl later learned that his co-workers had previously expressed concerns about Daryl’s ability to do his job safely to his boss. Daryl denied a problem, but his boss asked him to step off the forklift and come to his office. Daryl’s boss explained that he required him to submit to a reasonable suspicion drug test. Initially, Daryl was reluctant to comply and refused to cooperate. He knew he would test positive. Eventually, Daryl consented to take the test, tested positive, and was referred for an assessment and treatment.

The positive test shattered the carefully crafted facade that allowed him to believe that he was okay and that no one knew what was happening to him. He wasn’t okay, and everyone around him knew that he was in trouble. Although the positive drug test did not provide a straight line to recovery, it made it impossible to pretend everything was okay and started Daryl on a path to a better life.

Scroll to Top