Top 10 Most-Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Accident Testing

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Post-Accident, or For Cause, testing refers to the performance of a drug and alcohol test on employees involved in accidents occurring during work time or on company property.

Companies that implement an effective post-accident drug screening program can boost workplace safety, save on insurance costs and reduce legal liability and other costs associated with workplace accidents.

1. What are the different methods used for post-accident drug testing?

A number of different tests can be used, although some states or federal guidelines dictate which types of tests can be conducted. Urine is the most commonly used specimen for illicit drugs (SAMHSA guidelines), and breath is the most common for alcohol (DOT guidelines).

2. Is oral fluid (saliva) a good choice for post-accident drug testing?

Oral fluid is an appropriate choice for post-accident testing because it has the ability to detect recent drug use. It requires a small sample that is collected under direct supervision and is considered a tamper-resistant screening method in that it is hard for the employee to cheat or adulterate the sample. It also doesn’t require the employee to leave the site for collection.  It can be done onsite by a Supervisor or trained staff member.

3. What drugs are detected in post-accident testing?

According to SAMHSA’s guidelines, testing should check for the five illicit drugs (amphetamines, THC, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine) and alcohol. However, companies are not limited in the number of substances they can test for and may include drugs that employees take on a prescription basis.

4. How soon should employees be tested following an accident?

A post-accident drug test should be performed as soon as possible, although the standard for testing is up to 12 hours after the accident occurred. Alcohol tests are more time sensitive and should be performed within two hours, not to exceed eight hours due to the short duration of time that alcohol remains in a person’s system.

5. What if the employee cannot be tested during the standard timeframe?

If the employee cannot be tested during the standard timeframes, then the employee should not be tested. Companies should record the reason the test was not performed and keep documentation for their records. Each company policy should dictate the course of action followed if testing cannot be performed.

6. What if an employee refuses to take a test?

An employee who refuses a post-accident test when requested should be subject to disciplinary action pursuant to the company’s guidelines. Refusal to submit to a test includes: the failure to provide adequate breath for testing without a valid medical explanation; the failure to provide adequate urine for testing without a valid medical explanation; engaging in conduct that hinders or invalidates the testing process, and leaving the scene of an accident.

7. How are off-site accidents handled?

If an accident occurs in an area outside of the work facility, companies should develop and follow their internal policies on how to conduct post-accident testing. Companies should establish a designated point of contact who will then determine if a post-accident test is required, where the employee should report for testing, and how the employee should be transported to the testing site.

8. How does post-accident testing work?

Post-accident procedures should be outlined in a company’s Substance Abuse Policy. Most companies put a requirement in place to report all accidents to a designated company representative who will then assess whether testing should be conducted. If an accident or incident occurs that meets the established criteria for testing, the employee should be notified and instructions given for completing the test. Safe transportation to the testing facility should be provided and outlined in the company guidelines. An order should be placed for a drug test within your drug screening partner’s system or a phone call should be made to the closest testing facility to inform them that an employee will be arriving for post-accident testing. A detailed report should be completed as soon as possible and kept in accordance to company policy.

9. May a company conduct post-accident testing for all accidents that occur?

Drug testing policies should limit post-accident testing to situations in which the employer has a reasonable suspicion that the employee was impaired at the time of the accident and the accident was directly caused due to the employee’s impaired state. In addition, drug testing that is designed in a way that may be perceived as punitive or embarrassing to the employee is likely to deter injury reporting.

10. Can an employee return to work after the test?

When post-accident testing is conducted, it is a good idea for employers not to allow employees involved in an accident to return to work prior to the receipt of the testing results.

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Dr. Todd Simo

Dr. Simo is the Chief Medical Officer and the Managing Director of Transportation at HireRight. He served as HireRight’s Medical Director starting in 2009 and was promoted to Chief Medical Officer in 2015. Dr. Simo was also appointed to the role of Managing Director of Transportation in 2018. Dr. Simo came to HireRight with a decade of experience in the medical consulting arena. Before that he was Medical Director at an occupational health clinic in Virginia and owned a consulting firm providing medical director services to employers across the United States.

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