What is Saliva-Based Drug Testing and Why is It Beneficial for Employers?

A saliva-based drug test is an alternative method to test for the use of illegal and controlled substances in the workplace.  A saliva-based test can be used for all aspects of a company’s drug testing program, including pre-employment, random, for-cause, and post-accident drug testing.  These products have more flexibility: they are less invasive, allow for onsite administration, and can detect up to 12 different substances at a cost that is significantly less ($11) than traditional drug testing performed at a doctor’s office ($60).

In workers’ compensation, saliva-based testing methods are particularly beneficial in post-accident scenarios.  After an injury, employers can quickly obtain the injured worker’s saliva to determine if the presence of illegal or unauthorized controlled substances may have contributed to the accident (which may affect the compensability of the employee’s workers’ compensation claim).

Another key benefit to saliva-based testing kits relates to their detection time.  Drugs can generally be detected in saliva for up to 24 hours.  Thus, they have the ability to demonstrate an employee’s impairment at the time of the accident (i.e. the employee’s drug usage was a proximate cause of the accident/injury).  A traditional urine-based drug screen performed at a doctor’s office can detect drug metabolites for several weeks in some cases; thus, a positive result cannot “prove” that an employee was under the influence at the time of the accident.  This is important in regards to the relevant workers’ compensation statutes regarding positive drug tests and claim compensability.  Additionally, the narrower detection window can assist your organization in complying with the anti-retaliation provision (effective 11/1/16) in OSHA’s Final Rule on Recordkeeping – Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses.  This provision states that a post-accident drug test must be designed to elicit actual impairment at the time of the employee’s accident, for the same reasons described above.

It is important to note that the laws regulating the use of saliva-based drug testing kits for post-accident purposes may vary by state.  As an example, North Carolina only allows for the collection of an employee’s saliva; the analysis of each saliva sample must be performed by a certified laboratory.  Other states allow the use of a “quick-test” kit, which will detect the presence of drugs immediately upon collection of the saliva sample.

Interested in incorporating saliva-based drug tests in your organization? Contact your Synergy Loss Prevention Consultant or email us at info@synergyinsurance.net for more information.  Be sure to also ask about combining this novel drug testing approach with our Telemedicine option (Phone a Physician) for initial medical treatment.  Combining these two programs can save you over $130 on each injury, without having to leave your facility.  Now that’s Synergy!

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