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Can Employers Randomly Drug Test Safety Sensitive and Non-Safety-Sensitive Employees?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on October 1, 2021 at 1:33 PM

Your employees do essential work – sometimes even dangerous work – to keep your company running. But as a responsible employer, you want to make sure that they’re fit to complete the work without doing any harm to anyone. That means having a clear mind before they set out to do potentially dangerous work.

However, while drug testing is quite common in workplaces, the issue of who can be drug tested is surprisingly sticky. Especially with regards to safety-sensitive positions.

Can employers randomly drug test safety-sensitive and non-safety-sensitive employees? And if not, what are your options for ensuring a drug-free workplace? The answer is complicated.

Safety-Sensitive vs. Non-Safety-Sensitive

First, it helps to understand what a safety-sensitive employee is.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) defines a safety-sensitive employee as someone in a position that can impact both their own safety and the safety of the public. To be considered safety-sensitive, the employer must be able to prove that impaired performance in the position would significantly impact the employee’s safety and the safety of others. A few examples include:

  • Pilots
  • Dispatchers
  • Aviation mechanics
  • Flight attendants
  • Flight instructors
  • Air traffic controllers

A non-safety-sensitive position is basically any other position that doesn’t meet the criteria for a safety-sensitive categorization. This does not mean it is without risk, just that it does not meet the criteria for a safety-sensitive position due to its impact on safety.

Can Employers Randomly Drug Test Safety Sensitive and Non-Safety-Sensitive Employees?

Because non-safety-sensitive employees may still pose safety risks to others, it is reasonable for an employer to want to have them drug tested. Plus, this ensures the safe operation of a completely drug-free work environment. However, it gets you into sticky territory.

Technically, only safety-sensitive employees can be subject to random drug testing on safety grounds. In fact, passing random drug and alcohol tests is a legal requirement for someone to hold a safety-sensitive job.

Beyond safety-sensitive jobs, though, you’re dealing with broad employment regulations on drug testing. Employers can generally require applicants to pass a pre-employment drug test as long as they follow state laws on disclosure. However, employees have more rights than applicants, including whether or not an employer can require a random drug test as a condition of ongoing employment. As a rule, government jobs can require random drug and alcohol tests, but private-sector jobs have more protection for the employee.

This varies widely depending on the state. Some states don’t allow blanket random testing at all and instead require targeted testing of an individual based on reasonable suspicion, usually after an accident that was likely caused by drug or alcohol use.

If you want to require random drug testing, your best bet is to check state regulations first and construct your policy accordingly.

Understanding Your Legal Obligations

Can employers randomly drug test safety-sensitive and non-safety-sensitive employees? Like a lot of legal questions, it depends. Fortunately, our compliance obligations software makes it easy to figure out what you can and cannot do under current safety regulations.

So if you’re ready to invest in legal compliance with fewer headaches, get in touch today to learn how our software can help.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Human Resources

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