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April 01, 2002  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Keeping Drivers Clean and Sober

Executive describes third-party drug testing program


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Based on the success of drug and alcohol testing programs established in the armed forces during the early 1980s, the United States Department of Transportation implemented an anti-drug campaign in 1989 to educate, test and treat employees involved with safety in the transportation industry. Norton Medical Industries, a nationwide provider of drug and alcohol testing programs in Van Nuys, Calif., helps transportation operations implement comprehensive systems for meeting federal drug and alcohol standards. George Boujie, executive VP, explained how these programs work. SBF Plus: How is a drug prevention program initiated? Boujie: When a company wants to implement a testing program, we first get a list of employees that they want covered and put them into a pool for random testing. Then, with this database, we select at random at least 50 percent of the workforce to be tested each year. That puts teeth into the program. It also serves as an early-warning system to detect whether any drivers are using drugs but not displaying behavior yet. We also conduct pre-employment drug testing, post-accident testing, reasonable suspicion and return-to-duty testing, in which employees must pass a test to return to work after rehabilitation. SBF Plus: What kind of education and training do you provide? Boujie: Basically, we educate workers — drivers and mechanics — about how employers and employees are affected by drug use, how drug use affects work performance, how drug use affects family life, how long certain drugs stay in the system, how drug addictions start and what worker rights are in respect to drug testing. We also educate and certify supervisors on how to recognize a potential drug problem. We do this with written materials, tests, seminars, videos and audio tapes. SBF Plus: Will it cost an operation more to outsource these programs? Boujie: In the long run, it costs much less to outsource a drug and alcohol testing program. There are so many components that it takes away from an operation’s core competency to set up an in-house program. For instance, you have to have a licensed medical review officer (MRO) who is an M.D. The MRO’s job is to contact an employee who fails a test to find out if there is a problem. If need be, the MRO must refer the employee to a substance abuse professional (SAP) who is trained and certified. The MRO and the SAP work together to decide if the person is getting the best treatment. It would be very costly for a company to supply their own MRO and SAP. They would also have to set up a federally-approved laboratory and acquire compliant education materials. SBF Plus: Are school districts in need of better-managed programs? Boujie: As far as I have seen, school districts are in need of a higher quality in their testing materials and the administration of their programs. For more information, go to www.nortonmedical.com or call George Boujie at (800) 243-7669.

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