Bulk Drug Testing in the Workplace

Typically, employers use drug testing to screen their employees. For example, they may test employees upon application for a position, suspicion of drug use or following an accident in the workplace. A lesser known and used type of testing is known as blanket or “bulk” drug testing. Bulk testing evaluates all employees for the presence of specified drugs and can be extremely useful in the promotion of a culture of safety in the workplace. Does your policy currently support bulk drug testing? Do you know when bulk drug testing is most worthwhile? As a company following DOT regulations, are you allowed to use bulk testing? If your company is interested in implementing bulk drug testing, scroll down to learn about the various factors you must take into consideration.

Bulk Drug Testing in the Workplace

Circumstances to Use Bulk Drug Testing

Bulk drug testing doesn’t suit all situations. It most often occurs in the following circumstances:

  • Business Acquisitions: When employees fall under new ownership, possibly with new or updated drug testing policies, all employees will typically be subject to passing standard pre-employment conditions (i.e., passing pre-employment drug screening and background checks). This is similar to when an employee is hired at a new company.
  • Reasonable Cause: If drugs, alcohol, or paraphernalia are found in a workplace, and it is uncertain where they came from, the employer may use bulk testing. They will often want to test all employed individuals or those working during a specific shift in an effort to pinpoint the responsible person.
  • Annual Random Testing on 100% of Employed Staff: Some organizations choose to randomly test all employees each year. Although this option can be cost prohibitive for larger organizations, it provides an opportunity to ensure all employees are tested at least once annually and in the end, saves the employer money in reduced productivity, absenteeism, and preventable injuries/accidents.
  • Random Student Drug Testing: Students eligible for a drug-testing program may be required to submit to a “pre-season” drug test to establish a baseline of accountability at the start of every athletic season. Some schools are employing drug testing policies for students involved in any extracurricular activity, not just athletics.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Fairness: When an employer chooses to test 100% of employees, you can be sure that they have not “singled out” any specific employee(s). This provides an even playing field and can prevent employee resentment. In random drug testing, companies must place all eligible employees in the selection pool. However, because the same employee might be tested several times while another employee goes completely untested, some employees might feel that they are being unfairly targeted. Bulk testing eliminates this issue, as no one employee is singled out.
  • Discovery: In circumstances where drugs, alcohol, or related items are found in a workplace, bulk drug testing can be a useful tool to help an employer figure out who is guilty of bringing these forbidden items to work (and potentially using them at work).
  • Accountability: As we mentioned above, testing eligible students before a season begins can create a baseline of accountability and responsibility. This can help students learn what is expected of them throughout the athletic season.

Accommodating Bulk Testing with Your Policy

Bulk drug testing is legal and permissible. However, if you wish to use it at your workplace, you must ensure that your policy accommodates the testing of 100% of your employees. In all cases, employers should review and update policies to accommodate this goal. In addition, once you implement this new policy, you will need to retrain your supervisors to ensure the policy is properly followed. Finally, you must alert your employees of the change, making sure everyone understands the company’s drug testing policy, the procedures involved, and the consequences of a positive drug test.

Bulk Testing in DOT and Drug-Free Workplace Programs

Bulk drug testing capabilities and options vary greatly between drug-free workplace programs and programs regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

All employees who perform safety-sensitive tasks in the transportation industry (as defined by DOT) are subject to DOT workplace drug and alcohol testing. However, employees may only be tested in specific situations: pre-employment, reasonable suspicion/cause, random, return-to-duty, follow-up, and post-accident. Blanket testing may occur if the company changes ownership or if many employees are transferred from a position with non-safety-sensitive tasks to a position with safety-sensitive tasks. Companies are required to conduct pre-employment drug tests on all incoming employees.

Drug-free workplaces that do not fall under the DOT’s regulations can issue bulk testing of employees so long as their policy allows it. However, some states – Montana, Iowa, Vermont, and Rhode Island – have banned the blanket testing of employees without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

We strongly recommend that all companies interested in using bulk drug testing review and update their drug testing policy and/or consult an attorney prior to implementing any “bulk testing sessions.”

Getting Started

If you’re looking to implement bulk drug and alcohol testing as a part of your drug-free workplace program, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis, Indiana, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!