Recent studies show that 57 percent of fatal car crashes involve a driver who tests positive for alcohol or drugs. We all know that driving a car under the influence puts the driver and others around them at higher risk for accidents and injury. The same holds true when it comes to accidents in the workplace. On the road, in the office or on the job site – workplace accidents resulting in property damage or personal injury lead to added expense and liability exposure for the employer. Post accident testing, sometimes referred to as “post-incident” testing, can help determine if drugs or alcohol may have been a contributing factor leading to the incident.
Post accident testing can provide tremendous financial benefits to the employer – especially if an employee is found to have been impaired, resulting in the accident. Insurance adjusters will look to see if post accident testing was completed. Workers’ Compensation claims may be disputed as a result of positive test results. The three major things needed to successfully prove impairment in a post accident case:
- a workplace substance testing policy
- a properly administered drug and/or alcohol test
- a positive, certified and confirmed test result
Your substance free workplace policy should clearly establish objective criteria that trigger post accident testing, the type of testing that will be conducted and the people that will be tested. Post accident testing is recommended in the following scenarios:
- injury requiring medical care
- damage to vehicles or property above a specified dollar amount
- citation issued by the police
Other scenarios may be included into your policy and should be relevant to your company’s industry.
It is recommended that both alcohol and drug tests be conducted in post accident situations. Urine or saliva drug tests are best for post accident testing whereas hair testing is not recommended as it does not reflect recent usage. Alcohol testing can be conducted via saliva or breath test. Regulated industries under the purview of the Department of Transportation are required to conduct urine drug tests and alcohol tests in all post accident scenarios as described in 49 CFR Part 382.303.
All individuals involved in the incident should be tested. For example: a forklift operator backs into a coworker causing the coworker to seek medical attention. Both, the forklift operator and the injured co-worker should be subject to post accident testing. While one may assume that the forklift operator is the one at fault and should be the only person tested, it is not uncommon that the injured party may have caused the incident while in an impaired state.
Finally, time is of the essence when it comes to post accident testing. Alcohol testing should be completed within 2 hours of the incident, but not more that 8 hours after the incident. Drug tests should be conducted as soon as possible after the incident as well, but may be conducted up to 32 hours after the incident in some scenarios. Post accident testing is secondary to receiving medical attention and at no time should medical attention be delayed for drug or alcohol testing.
All drug tests should be submitted to, and processed by a SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) approved laboratory for screening and confirmation testing using GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) methods. A licensed Medical Review Officer (MRO) should then review the test results delivered by the laboratory before delivering the final, confirmed drug test results.
Alcohol tests that show a positive initial result should be followed up with a confirmation test administered by a certified Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) before final alcohol test results are recorded and delivered to the employer.
An important factor to successful drug and alcohol testing relies heavily on the collector doing their job properly by following all protocols and completing all chain of custody paperwork properly during the collection process. Failure on the collector’s part can result in a fatal flaw that would discount the results of the tests conducted. Making sure that your collector is trained and certified in all aspects of drug and alcohol test collections is critical.