Drug testing at random is a powerful testing method for companies that want to be sure there is no illegal drug use occurring among its employees at any time. The Department of Transportation (DOT) refers to random drug testing as the “best tool employers have for deterring drug and alcohol use in the workplace”.
Transportation is a safety-sensitive industry, so every DOT regulated agency as well as the Coast Guard have their own regulations that establish minimum levels of random drug testing. Drug testing at random is not a practice that is only reserved for transportation, however, its widespread practice in the industry can shed some light on its effectiveness for any business that aims to remain drug-free.
Perhaps the main factor that makes random testing such a useful deterrent against drug use is the element of surprise. Employees know they may be tested at any time, so in a situation where they have an opportunity to take illicit drugs, they have yet another important reason to abstain: their employment depends on remaining drug-free.
When combined with pre-employment drug tests, random testing can minimize the likelihood of undesirable or even dangerous behavior among employees. The timespan that employees have to submit a sample for a random drug test is, by nature, much shorter than a pre-employment test, so abstaining from a drug habit in anticipation of a test is not an option.
It is important for employers and employees alike to remember that a positive random drug test does not automatically result in termination. Random testing helps employers identify those with substance abuse issues and can refer them to the appropriate treatment. Employee assistance programs (EAP’s) offer employees a fair chance at recovering from drug addiction, and are an integral part of any successful drug-free workplace program.
Employers are strongly encouraged to set-up a workplace drug testing policy that clearly outlines the consequences of positive tests. This policy must be applied for all cases, involving all positive employees.