By Sharon Bottcher
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If there is one word that describes the drug testing industry in 2017, “change” is the most fitting. We can all agree that 2017 brought not only some much needed changes to the industry in order to better protect our society and workplaces, but also mayhem and uncertainty in regard to how these changes may or may not affect testing programs. Change is often good, but can also be challenging.

Many questions have been raised in response to legalized marijuana and the opioid crisis, most pertaining to the maintenance of safe and productive workplaces and the continuation of workplace drug and alcohol testing. In response to these concerns, the Department of Transportation (DOT) recently increased the random rates under the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA), in addition to multiple other industry-wide changes. Employers need to make updates to their DOT and Non-DOT testing programs in order to stay compliant with the changes made in 2017.

Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Transportation Updates

Widely impacting employers across the country, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the DOT updated their drug testing policies in 2017 to reflect the opioid crisis. The changes, among other items, expanded both the HHS and DOT drug panels to include four semi-synthetic opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone). Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) was added as an initial test analyte and methylenedioxyethylamphetaime (MDEA) was removed.

Additionally, federal changes by HHS and DOT had a trickle-down effect on many state drug testing laws. A whopping 20+ states, municipalities, and territories were impacted because of the HHS and DOT changes. This is due to the requirement in many state drug testing laws to comply with federal guidelines, by deferring to HHS guidelines, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) guidelines, or the DOTs 49 CFR Part 40 (Part 40).

Medical Marijuana and Workplace Drug Testing Policy

Medical marijuana again took the lead in 2017. Thirteen states passed medical marijuana laws in 2017, with six of those states amending current medical marijuana programs. Medical marijuana continues to be a major source of confusion when it comes to addressing its use in the workplace. For instance, is an employer required to accommodate medical marijuana? Does legalization of marijuana mean employees can be impaired at work? What if an employee tests positive for marijuana? How does an employer proceed if an applicant shares that they are a current registered medical marijuana user?

The answer to these and other medical marijuana related questions is not always plan and simple. Understanding applicable laws and incorporating their requirements into a policy not only keeps employers compliant, it aids in the management of a successful program. Don’t fall victim to the “once and done” motto. Each year there are changes and cases that impact policy compliance. Company policies and procedures need to be constantly reviewed and amended.

Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Drug Testing Policy

The smallest of changes can result in significant repercussions if challenged by an employee in the court of law. On the other hand, changes can result in significant advantages for employers. A good example

of those advantages is laws that are added or amended to allow employers to reduce or deny workers’ compensation claims, or make it easier for them to do so.

Three states passed workers’ compensation laws in 2017 that open the opportunity for employers to participate in the benefits offered by the states. Wyoming, for example, increased the reduction rate for workers’ compensation premiums 5% for employers who opt to comply with benefits offered by the state. While these changes may seem small, they add up and increase the company’s bottom line.

Update Your Policy in the New Year

Regular review of even the most well written policies is a must. There is no specific schedule to which businesses must adhere, but the best practice is to review your program and policy annually (at a minimum) for relevancy and accuracy. Routine maintenance ensures that a company’s policy and procedures continue to align with its mission and goals, in addition to staying compliant with updated state and federal regulations.

This New Year, take time to understand the changes that occurred in the industry in 2017 and what they mean for your testing program. Policy review and updates should be a priority as we head into 2018. Consider the time, effort and financial investments dedicated to developing a great program in the past. Why compromise your program by not updating your policy on a regular basis?

If you haven’t reviewed your policies within the last year or you are concerned your policy may be non-compliant, call the Current Consulting Group at 215-240-8204, or email us at Our experts will be happy to work with you to ensure your policies meet the requirements for both state and federal drug testing laws.

(C) 2010-2018 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way full attribution to the author and copyright holder are required.

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