Hair, Blood, and Urine Testing for Employers

Hair, Blood and Urine Testing for Employers

Drug Testing

Featured image: “VialsCloseup” by UW News, used under CC BY 2.0

There are a lot of reasons an employer might wish to drug test or check alcohol blood levels of their employees. It helps you avoid liability in the case of an employee accident or employee caused damaged in the event of a lawsuit. It can help you get discounts on your insurance, or in the case of some types of insurance, especially heavy manufacturing insurance and worker’s compensation, helps you to qualify for it. There are only two types of alcohol testing, blood and breath (though obviously different labs use different procedures and different breathalyzers), but there are considerably more options and choices to consider for drug testing.

Hair Drug Testing

Generally, employers use hair drug testing the least. This form of testing is not necessary for most purposes, as it can detect some substances up to a year after ingestion. It is also the most costly, as test administrators need a lab setting to perform a hair test. Some claim that hair tests produce the most foolproof results, but some studies have shown exfoliation can diminish the amount in the hair. Employers are unlikely to use hair testing, unless it is a position in which people cannot be doing drugs under any circumstances. Something like a drug counselor might qualify. In the absence of head hair, it is common to use leg hair or other hair on the body.

Blood Drug Testing

If your main concern is using on the job, then a blood test is likely to be the most accurate for determining drug use that day. One issue with blood tests is that they can sometimes show positive for several days after ingestion, especially with marijuana. This has become a problem in Colorado, where studies have shown people can fail 3 days after partaking. But most other drugs will be accurate, and any positives indicate recent usage. This is the most common type for liability and in worker’s accident situations.

Urine Drug Testing

Urine testing is by far the most common test in the real world. Employers most commonly use urine testing for pre-employment screening, but other private and public entities often use this technique for other purposes. Many urine tests can be done on-site, unless there is a specific reason to suspect a substance is being abused that is not normally tested for in a usual test. There are 5 panels, 7 panels, and up to 11 panels that are used.

The traditional 5 panel tests for PCP, opiates, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana. 7 panels usually include benzodiazepines and barbiturates in the tests, and 10 panels can include almost anything, including MDMA, LSD, methadone and more. Generally, there is not one uniform 4 or 5 panel. They may include testing for similar substances to 7 and 10 panel tests, or they may test for substances more commonly abused in that geographic region. But in general, it is less cumbersome to test for specific metabolites with urine testing, whereas the cost to test for specific metabolites is more with blood. But with blood, if you are testing for “novel” or rarely used substances, it may be required.

It will ultimately be your decision, but we are here to give you suggestions on the best option for you.

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Alcohol Testing: Blood vs Breath