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Drug Testing News

More employers test for drugs while more candidates fail tests

Posted on Tue, Jul. 22, 2003

Associated Press

GREENVILLE, S.C. - The number of employers requiring drug screens for potential workers is rising as companies try to meet federal workplace rules and limit their liability, according to company officials and testing firms.

And, the number of tests turning up positive for drug use also is increasing.

In 1988, the Drug Free Workplace Act mandated that all federal agencies and any business recipients of federal grant money or contracts be drug-free. Since then, drug-testing company officials say they've seen an increase in employers requesting the testing.

"It's becoming an acceptable part of the hiring process," said Dr. Robert Bennett, who owns a testing facility in Charleston.

Drumm Enterprises Inc., of Greenville, has had a 50 percent increase in businesses requesting pre-employment drug screens, said Cheryl Lunn, occupational health coordinator.

At the same time, the company has had a 40 percent increase in the number of pre-employment positive tests, Lunn said. Drumm processes 150 to 200 samples each month for Upstate employers.

Most tests look for five substances: marijuana, cocaine, PCP, opiates and amphetamines, Lunn said.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees make up the bulk of new testing requests, Lunn said. Pest control companies, water carriers and landscapers are all on the list of new clients.

Smaller companies, especially contractors, are beginning to test for drugs to comply with the policies of larger companies they contract with, she said.

Some large corporations receive discounts on liability insurance and workers' compensation if they drug-test their employees, Lunn said.

Several large Upstate companies test potential workers for drugs before hiring.

All potential BMW Manufacturing Corp. employees must submit hair for drug screens, said spokeswoman Bunny Richardson.

Michelin has tested all job candidates since 1985, said Andy Delscamp, manager of community relations. Once employed, each of the company's 4,300 employees is subject to random drug testing and employees involved in safety-related issues are given a drug test within hours of any incident, Delscamp said.

"We need everyone to be fully cognizant, fully capable and operating with the best judgment they can at all times," he said. "In an manufacturing environment, safety is our No. 1 concern."

The Greenville Hospital System began drug-testing its employees seven years ago, said human resources vice president Douglas Dorman.

"You can't have 7,500 employees and not have some low percentage of the population with a substance abuse problem," he said. "We wanted to keep that at an absolute minimum."