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DOT Use of Paperless Chain of Custody and Control Forms

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In 2015, the Department of Transportation (DOT) approved the use of Electronic Federal Chain of Custody and Control Forms, sometimes referred to as eCOCs or eCCFs.

In simple terms, it represents a virtual paper trail from here to there.

Think of it as a digital version—an “electronic paper trail”—of a traditional paper form, detailing every step on the journey taken during a human specimen test. This includes everything from collection to transfer, analysis, and reporting—all linked to a specific screening laboratory. Employers are required to provide this level of control documentation to every candidate undergoing a drug screen.

For DOT testing programs, the eCCF is also used to document final results reported to a Medical Review Officer (MRO).

The introduction of these electronic forms into the DOT testing environment has streamlined the drug screening process, reducing turnaround times by preventing delays in the transfer of documents and eliminating the need for employers, Medical Review Officers, and Third-Party Administrators to track down CCFs.

Errors are minimized and deadlines are easily met.

Short deadlines in the electronic Chain of Custody process, such as the collection facility’s responsibility to send the CCF to a Medical Review Officer (MRO) within 24-hours, are met more reliably than with the paper process. There are also many other important benefits:

  • The potential for data entry errors is reduced; information is entered into the system once, and the need to decipher handwritten information is eliminated.
  • Barcodes attached to every specimen accurately detail donor demographics.
  • Through approved locations with proper technology, donors can now provide an electronic signature.
  • Fatal flaws (fairly common problems that can jeopardize drug screen integrity) are minimized: missing signatures, inaccurate donor, employer, or collection facility information, etc.

Additionally, since drug tests can now be processed online, employers no longer need to order, store, or mail physical forms and no longer need to worry about using the correct federal or forensic form. Tracking a drug screen and staying up to date on its progress is now completed electronically.

If you have questions about your current screening program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. A-Check Global’s team of dedicated professionals is available to help and provide friendly, accurate guidance. Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email support@acheckglobal.com.

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The Impact of Marijuana Legalization

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The growing number of legalized marijuana states indicates a public perception shift of marijuana’s role in their communities. Many states have legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with chronic or severe medical diagnoses, but many states are also starting to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, creating an issue for employers who are now unsure whether they are legally allowed to continue screening applicants and employees for marijuana use.

Does marijuana legislation protect employers?

More than half of the drug testing laws passed in 2016 were directly related to marijuana regulation, and a large percentage of the current regulation revolving around marijuana is heavily favored toward employer and business protection.

Currently, California regulation (Health and Safety Code – HSC, 11362.45) states, “Nothing in section 11362.1 shall be construed or interpreted to amend, repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt: … (f) The rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace … or affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees, or prevent employers from complying with state of federal law.” This allows employers in California to continue drug screening their employees and applicants in order to maintain their zero-tolerance marijuana policies.

Additionally, Florida’s regulations (Chapter 381, Public Health – General Provisions) also protect employers from many of the issues surrounding marijuana legalization: “Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any… place… of employment…”

The debate over consumption, safety, and workplace issues.

Some believe since recreational marijuana is now legal in a growing number of states, businesses should no longer be able to screen or reprimand employees for drug use, often drawing parallels between marijuana and alcohol effects. In business practice this does raise questions, as a substantial amount of research currently supports risk associated with marijuana consumption.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the potency of marijuana has risen by a factor of three in the last 30 years. This increase, coupled with the recent legalization movements, has caused numerous agencies from marijuana-legal states to report severe increases in public safety hazards.

Following the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; an organization governed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy; whose goal is to facilitate cooperation and coordination against drug trafficking in areas surrounding Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming; have reported the following conclusions:

  • Traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana have increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012
  • The majority of driving-under-the-influence arrests involve marijuana and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone
  • There has been a 16 percent increase in toxicology reports showing positive marijuana driving-under-the-influence results
  • 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits from 2011 through 2013
  • 82 percent hospitalization increase from 2008 to 2013

This evidence strongly supports the hazards irresponsible marijuana use can cause. The cognitive impairment that marijuana imposes on the user produces a substantial risk for any employee operating or working near heavy machinery.

It also has a significant impact on a person’s ability to perform basic work functions. In a recent study, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated that “recent cannabis use impairs the performance in cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention” with “recent use” being defined as a 24-hour period.

There are also other major costs that employers may incur from employees who are regularly using marijuana that are related to insurance and healthcare expenses. NAS has also found that smoking marijuana on a regular basis is associated with chronic cough and may be linked to greater mental health symptoms for people suffering from bipolar disorders.

Legislation is evolving and ongoing.

There have already been more than 20 bills introduced in the post-2016 election regarding the regulation and legalization of marijuana. The landscape of marijuana legislation is likely to continue to push in favor of legalization, making the importance of developing an effective drug-free workplace policy and having an effective drug screening program a critical business decision for your organization.

If you have questions about developing a drug-free policy, or about your current screening program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. A-Check Global’s team of dedicated professionals are available to help, and can provide friendly, accurate guidance. Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email support@acheckglobal.com.

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Understanding Drug Screen Reports

drug_test_92572931-56b08ae65f9b58b7d023ef47When speaking with our clients who routinely drug screen even high volumes of employees, we’re often asked questions about reading or deciphering drug screen results. That’s a good thing, because it shows our clients are as committed to making informed employment decisions as we are about providing accurate and compliant information.

Even experienced employers can benefit from some good advice

We’ve seen it all, but one of the more common areas to pay attention to within the Chain of Custody and Control Form (CCF) is the “Reason for Testing.” Employers might incorrectly mark this area, so it’s important to accurately choose one of the major reasons for testing to help minimize and overcome any recurring compliance risks. The reasons for testing listed on most non-federally regulated CCFs are:

  • pre-employment
  • random
  • reasonable suspicion
  • return-to-duty
  • promotion
  • follow-up testing

On every CCF document, a Specimen ID number will also be assigned. The location of the ID can vary from form to form, but can usually be located in the upper margins of the document. The Specimen ID is one of the most important parts of the drug screening process, as it ensures the integrity of the result remains true as it travels between locations.

Location, location, location

Location identification is often another area of confusion, since the complete process of a drug screen is not usually completed in one place.

The first step in the specimen testing process is the collection facility. This step is where the donor provides the initial sample to be shipped to and evaluated at the testing laboratory. The testing laboratory is where the initial positive or negative determination will be made. Once official results have been determined, the testing laboratory will then send non-negative – and all federally regulated – results to the Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MRO is responsible for evaluating medical health and prescriptions to determine any medically valid reasons for any non-negative results.

Understanding the results

After the MRO process, verified results are then made available to the employer. There are four sections that are typically outlined on a drug screen report:

  • substance abuse panel
  • initial test level
  • GC/MS confirmation test level
  • Determined result.

The “substance abuse panel” is the list of drugs that an applicant or employee was screened for. Understanding the “initial test” and “GC/MS” (Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) confirmation levels is where the process can get a little complicated.

Contrary to popular belief, these numbers do not indicate the level that the donor tested at. The initial test level is the threshold that the lab uses to determine negative or positive results. Any results that exceed the initial test level threshold are flagged as positive results.

Once a specimen has been flagged, a GC/MS confirmation test is performed to verify the positive reading. If the confirmation results meet or exceed the GC/MS confirmation levels that are outlined in this field, then the result is reported out to the MRO as a positive.

It is in this field that sub-testing will also be reported. Sub-testing is the practice of testing for different types of a drug category. The most common type of sub-testing is screening for methamphetamine inside the amphetamine category, but sub-testing can also occur for opiates, barbiturates, alcohol, and other drug categories.

While it can be complicated, we’re here as your trusted partner, and available to talk with you about your drug screening program and applicant/employee drug reports. Contact A-Check Global today.

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Reviewing the Benefits of a Medical Review Officer (MRO)

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An MRO can play an important role in your employment decisions

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is responsible for providing a medically-verified evaluation on drug screen results. For applicants and employees not regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), this applies to any non-negative laboratory result determination. For applicants and employees who fall under DOT regulation (drivers or fork lift operators, for example), this applies to every drug screen, regardless of the laboratory’s initial determination. DOT applicants or employees are subject to additional requirements because of stricter, federally mandated regulation and “Return-To-Duty” programs.

The entire MRO process is beneficial for both employee and employer, and aims to maximize accuracy throughout the drug screening process.

An added layer of review to assist both applicant/employee and employer

Applicants may disclose any health conditions to a medical professional, allowing them to protect their privacy during the application and screening process.

It is possible for an applicant’s drug screen to show a positive result due to a medical condition or prescribed medication. By presenting drug screen results to an MRO, employers might avoid numerous expenses associated with removing or disqualifying an applicant or employee from employment, only to then discover a medically valid condition.

Additionally, the MRO process might also reveal conditions detrimental to safety. If an MRO believes that a medical condition or prescribed medication associated with an employee can inhibit that worker’s ability to safely perform their duties, they can choose to disclose that information on the final MRO report for the employer. A “Fit-For-Duty” test can also be requested by the MRO to properly assess the worker’s ability to perform job duties and measure any possible impairment concerns.

Drug screening best practices prove the need for MRO services

Dismissing a worker or disqualifying an applicant based on a positive drug screen that has not undergone MRO review is not necessarily congruent with industry best-practice policies and can also prove costly for the employer. For example, according to a 2014 Training Industry Report, onboarding a typical full time employee can cost up to $1,000—and require approximately 40 hours of company provided training. MRO consultation during the drug screening process can help an employer make sound employment decisions before that money is spent.

If your company is interested in taking the next step in drug screening accuracy and fairness in your Drug-Free Workplace policy, contact A-Check Global to get started immediately with MRO and other drug screening services.

Study Finds Highest Level of Positive Drug Screen Results in Last Decade

A-Check Global’s drug screening partner, Quest Diagnostics, recently released their Annual Drug Testing Index revealing a fifth straight year of rising positive drug detection rates in the US workforce. This is the highest rate of positive screens since 2005.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ examined nearly 11 million drug screening results and found that positivity rates had risen from 3.9% of screens returning positive in 2014 to 4.0% in 2015. The last time the rate was found to be at, or above 4% was in 2005. The rise in positive results came from screens completed by both general employees, as well as government mandated employees, such as truck drivers and pilots.

The study also provides a deep look into the drugs most commonly found during screening, exposing that nearly 2% of all urine based tests return positive for marijuana use, making it the drug most often detected by far. Additionally, the study reveals a noticeable jump in positive results for heroin and amphetamine use, with both at higher rates than last year.

For more information regarding drug screening and drug free workplace solutions feel free to contact A-Check Global through our contact page, or by phone at 877-345-2021.