This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.
The drug testing process begins with the specimen collection. A step that is arguably the most important. If mistakes or errors are made during the collection, and those errors are egregious enough, the remainder of the testing process may be invalidated or canceled. It is the collector’s duty to ensure the security and integrity of the specimen throughout the entirety of the collection process.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing regulations are often viewed as the industry standard when it comes to secure collection procedures. The DOT’s 10 Steps to Collection Site Security and Integrity has long been the go-to reference for urine specimen collections, and with the recent approval of DOT oral fluid testing, this document will likely serve as a template for the security and integrity of oral fluid collections. What is most important for collectors to understand is that by holding a DOT collector certification, they are acting as a service agent on behalf of the DOT when conducting specimen collections for DOT personnel. However, there are other important key elements that can be associated with the security and integrity of the collection process.
A Basic Understanding of the Collection Process is Important
Whether you are a Designated Employer Representative (DER) for an organization, or a person of authority who deals with an organization’s drug testing program, it is beneficial to have a general understanding of how the collection process works. Sure, it may not be necessary to go through the certification process DOT collectors are required to do, but understanding the step-by-step process of a specimen collection will likely add depth to your ability to fulfill your role. For example, if you understand the procedure for a shy bladder scenario, it will become apparent why one pre-employment collection takes ten minutes to complete, while another pre-employment collection may take three hours.
This relatively small amount of knowledge and understanding can speak volumes to the success of DERs and authoritative personnel, simultaneously offering valuable insight to the collectors who are ultimately responsible for the integrity of each collection.
Drug Test Results Carry a Lot of Weight
When it comes to workplace drug testing, most individuals required to test are either seeking employment or maintaining employment. Regardless of reason, the test outcome may quite literally change an individual’s livelihood for better or worse. Depending on the company policy and/or mode of DOT, this can be as harmless as temporary removal from duty, all the way to the severity of permanent loss of license or certification required to work in a specific industry. Despite the level of consequence, employers need to be confident that a result is valid so appropriate action can be taken. That validity begins with an uncompromised specimen collection regardless of whether the specimen is urine or oral fluid.
Collection Errors Come with a Cost
When a specimen is collected properly without errors, this streamlines the rest of the drug testing process. Examples of common errors include samples being mislabeled, missing information on CCFs, or specimen bottles that are partially full or not split properly. Errors, commonly referred to as flaws in the drug testing industry, can be classified as correctable or fatal. Flaws that are correctable afford the collector an opportunity to submit a memorandum of correction describing what led to the error and account for the issue. Fatal flaws are errors so egregious that the testing process cannot continue, and a re-collection may be necessary. Regardless of error type, additional time is required to make the correction and move forward with the testing process.
All errors have a cost. In the setting of a fatal flaw, there will be the cost of a re-collection, but situations like this incur more than a monetary loss. The employer must initiate a new collection, the collector will need to conduct a new collection, and the employee may miss work, all of which can add up to a significant amount of lost time. Additionally, if a collector commits a fatal flaw, they must undergo retraining which also takes time and money. Avoiding these unnecessary costs is the primary goal and can simply be achieved with error-free collections, which uphold the security and integrity of the collection process.
Interacting with Collectors can Improve the Experience
As DERs, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle of dealing with results, referrals, and all other aspects of the company’s drug testing program; but having an active relationship with collection sites can go a long way in supporting a successful drug testing program. Taking time to visit your collection sites will not only help familiarize you with how the collection process is handled, but it also sends a message to the collection site that you as an organization are on top of what is important.
This call to action can be taken a step further by requesting copies of collectors’ DOT certifications, requesting to undergo a mock collection, or even conducting an audit of the collection site. Not only will this show collectors that you are intent on holding them accountable for the outcome of every collection they perform for your organization, but it can also provide peace of mind that your collection site is adhering to a standard your organization should expect.
Lastly, building rapport between collection site and employer can be beneficial to creating a program that is perfectly suited to the employer and the drug testing program they wish to apply to their organization. Instead of purchasing menu item services from an unknown collection site, active relationships with collectors and collection sites will create partnerships, and ultimately confidence that the importance of specimen security and integrity will be upheld.
© DrugPak – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of DrugPak. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder is required.