Starting a Workplace Drug Testing Program

If you are considering managing your own drug-testing program to improve efficiency and reduce administrative burden, you have two options. The first option is in-house drug testing and the second is using a third-party administrator.  At, we are not a third-party administrator nor a drug testing company. This unique position allows us to provide employers with an objective analysis and comparison of in-house testing versus hiring a third-party provider or administrator.  As a training company focused on compliance, legal research and training, our goal is to help employers make informed decisions when starting or amending a drug and alcohol testing program.

No matter how an employer decides to conduct testing, the initial question an employer should ask is if testing is even feasible for the business. The size of the business and the type of business can influence the answer to this question. If a company has only about five employees whose work is done majority from an office, then there are fewer risks of an employee under the influence is undetected and a less risk of a physical injury. However, compared to a business that has drivers and requires its employees to be on the road, the chance of injury is greater and the ability to detect drug or alcohol impairment is eliminated because the employee might not be seen that day.

Workplace Drug Testing Program

Balancing the Risk and Cost of Implementing a Drug-Free Workplace

Employers who consider implementing drug and alcohol testing have the option to choose between testing their employees in-house or hiring a third-party. There can be many advantages to administering in-house testing compared to a third-party testing company. Every business and industry workplace is distinct, as a result, every employer should make a thorough determination about the drug testing program elements that are most beneficial for their workplace.  Of course, this cost is outweighed by the potential for bigger structural costs: worker turnover, loss of productivity and workers’ compensation claims. Drug screening is a valuable investment – and has a tremendous amount of benefits such as; healthier and safer business environments,  reduce the social and economic costs of drug abuse and addiction, and help individuals consider the consequences of their actions and seek out the help they need for recovery.

Control How Testing is Conducted

As the employer in-house testing allows an employer to make changes to its testing policy whenever it sees fit. There is no requirement to inform a 3rd party company and wait to receive confirmation that new protocol to be in place. With in-house testing, employers can perform an onsite test that also minimizes the chance of adulteration because the specimen does not need to be moved around back and forth from a facility. The employer will also have more control over the chain of custody of the specimen. Performing in-house testing also allows employers to maintain records of the testing performed. This also gives the employer the ability to reference back to a record easily if ever needed and ensures that records are not misplaced or destroyed by a different company by accident.

The cost of managing a drug-free workplace can be straining—particularly when it is difficult to see the benefit. Striking a balance between in the cost-benefit analysis of managing a drug-free workplace in-house or using a third-party is importnat factor when implimenting a new drug-free workplace plan or decided to stop using third-parties and conducting testing in-house.


Providing in-house testing provides an advantage to an employer such as being able to hire employees at a faster rate. If a business is short-staffed testing in-house will eliminate trips to a laboratory and the time waited to receive specimen results. This will give employers the opportunity to move on in the hiring process which allows the business to run appropriately and efficiently. Another reason in-house testing is more convenient is the issue of time-sensitive testing such as post-accident testing.  It is crucial for employers to perform testing immediately after an accident happens at the workplace because it can determine whether the employee was under the influence or not.

Third0party testing results can take a longer time to receive. Prospective employees are required to wait at laboratories and once the specimen is given there could be an additional 3-7 days to receive specimen results. Additionally, Third-party testing can diminish the ability to determine whether an employee was under the influence after a work-place accident because of the time required to either wait for a Third-party facility to be available or time required to travel and wait to perform a test at a facility. During this time drug and alcohol leaves the system and therefore causing the test results unreliable to determine whether an employee was in fact under the influence during the accident.

Starting your own in-house drug & alcohol testing program?

Book a free 15-minute consulting where you can obtain real advice or call 1-888-390-5574.

What is in-house testing?

In-house testing refers to conducting specimen collection and/or testing by a direct employee of the company, rather than by a 3rd party collection facility you would send the employee to.

Our employer training bundles include the following:

  • Training includes Scenrio & Mock Collections
  • 5-Year Post-Training Support
  • Comprehnsive State Law Research
  • We’ll help you identify workers compensaiton discounts
  • Free Random Testing Software
  • Equiptment & Training Materials Shipped Direclty To You
  • Froms Pakcage
  • Lab Account Referral Set-Up
  • Drug & Alcohol Testing Policy Review
  • Breath Alcohol Testing Device (Breathalyzer)

Costs Associated with In-House Testing


If an employer is going to perform in-house testing, employees who are designated to perform the test must be properly trained. Fortunately, finding training programs for employees is easier and less costly than hiring a third-party company. The cost of training an employee as a specimen collector can vary; however, once trained an employer does not have to continue to pay a third-party company for each specimen collection.

Beware Fake and Sub-Standard Training Companies

If an employer chooses to implement its own in-house testing procedure it must provide proper training to its employees. When searching for companies where to obtain training courses employers must be aware that some companies do not offer the full requirements that the qualifications required. One main precaution is based on understanding the difference between being “certified” and “qualified.” Companies offering certifications do not provide the mandated qualifications that employers need to conduct testing. These certifications are only labeled only recognized by the company providing the certification. Furthermore, employers should also be aware of click-bait offers, there are companies that will provide a portion of the required course for a fraction of the cost but once the course is purchased reveal that additional items must be purchased in order to be qualified for example; testing supplies and on-hand training by an instructor. Finding a company that can provide all of the essentials for in-house testing is key for business and ensuring that it has the correct information will ensure that in-housing testing runs smoothly.


In-house testing can cost anywhere between $10-$300 per employee. However, there are many factors that can affect the cost of testing supplies such as specimen testing, the panel of drugs tested for and the type of employees tested. Generally, supplies are purchased in bulk therefore, the cost of supplies will lower resulting in additional savings to the employer. If an employer wants to choose the most cost-effective testing, it should consider urine or saliva testing compared to blood or hair testing where the cost of this type of specimen can triple.

Alcohol testing is completely different from drug panel testing. Training and qualification can’t cost between $1,200- $5000 however, after this is completed each test conducted will cost as allow as 50 cents. The alcohol breath testing devices (EBT) devices can cost between $49-$350.  Although the up-front price can be costly the long term of savings will outweigh those costs.

If an employer chooses to perform random drug testing it should be aware of companies claiming special programs required to formulate random testing. Employers have access to this type of program free for download from the Federal Transit Administration website. Random testing should not have additional costs compared to additional charges a third-party company will charge to perform this type of testing.

Miscellaneous Expenses:

Some costs that might also be foreseen are insurance premiums, however, many states provide a discount for companies that implement a drug and alcohol-free workplace program.

What is 3rd Party Testing?

Hiring a collection facility refers to outsourcing all or some of your testing to a third-party facility in the business of specimen collection for drug and alcohol testing.

Cost of Third-Party Testing

Third-party testing is more expensive compared to in-house testing.  Generally, the bare minimum can cost $50 per person with an additional $100-$150 fees just to come out a perform the testing. In the event of a work accident, there are also call out fees which can also include separate charges for mileage or hourly rate. Post-accident may cost even more because after hour fees the cost of the third-party to travel to a hospital to administer the collection at a hospital.

Third-Party Testing Advantages

There are some advantages of third-party testing such as the following; having results reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO) and no conflict of interest between the third-party and employee. Also, this third-party testing is convenient if an employer requires a fitness for duty exam and therefore can be conducted at the same time as the drug test.  However, not all states require results to reviewed by an MRO and all positive tests must be confirmed at a laboratory regardless of which route of testing is taken.

Duty of Care Owed to Employees

Employers will always owe a duty of care to employees when performing drug testing. Employers are required to ensure that drug and alcohol testing be completed in a reliable manner. If an employer makes an error during testing, it will be easily traceable and can be re-done with minimal setbacks. If a 3rd party creates an error during testing an employer may still be liable for a violation done out of its control. This will also be difficult for employers to find out what error was committed during the specimen collection and testing because 3rd party testers have their own policies in which they abide. Furthermore, employers can prevent additional liability from removing the need for employees to travel to these facilities this eliminates the risk of accidents that can occur during transport. As an employer employees safety is an important factor when drug testing is conducted.

Each state has its own procedures as to what is required under its Drug-Free workplace program. Some states do not have any laws that regulate drug testing in the workplace. However, for the states that do certain issues were decided by the court in regards to 3rd party testing facilities. Below is some example of the outcomes of liability and duty of care issues.

In Wigginton v. White, 847 N.E.2d 646 (Ill. App. Ct. 2006) a school bus driver tested positive for marijuana, filed suit claiming that the drug test conducted was unreliable. The Court found that the burden shifted to the secretary to show that the drug test was reliable and that it maintained the DOT regulation standards. Here, the Secretary’s MRO did not inform the Plaintiff of the required split specimen as mandated in the regulations therefore the specimen was unreliable. This is an example of a 3rd party facilities Medical review officer failing to follow proper standards.

In Stinson v. Physicians Immediate Care, Ltd., 646 N.E.2d 930 (Ill. App. Ct. 1995). The employee filed a claim against the laboratory that performed the drug test, claiming it negligently conducted the test, which resulted in a false positive. The issue was whether laboratories owe a duty of care to the employee. The court held that although the contract is between the employer, a laboratory still owes a duty when handling employee specimens. As an employer, you should ensure that when choosing a laboratory, they are appropriately licensed and insured to avoid any breach of this duty.

In Mike v. Prof. Clinical Laboratory, Inc., 450 Fed. Appx. 732 (10th Cir. 2011)(unpublished): Nurse sued the drug testing company retained by her employer, alleging negligence and violation of the Oklahoma Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act. In this case, the court held that the statute was intended to protect an employee from employers not laboratories, any error during testing has to be a “willful violation”.

In Shaw v. Psychemedics Corp., 826 S.E.2d (S.C. 2019): Employee, who had been subjected to drug testing by the employer, brought negligence action in federal court against laboratory which performed the test. The issue was whether laboratories owe a duty of care to the employee. The court held that a drug testing laboratory’s duty to an employee subject to the testing may arise from the laboratory’s contractual relationship with the employer; the lack of privity between the employee and laboratory does not preclude the imposition of a duty.

In Duncan v. Afton, Inc., 991 P.2d 739 (Wyo. 1999): Employee, who was terminated by his employer when it received a report that his urine specimen showed a .32 urine alcohol content which leads to his termination, brought negligence action against company that was hired by employer to collect urine samples as part of substance abuse testing program. The court held that collection facilities present a risk of harm great enough to hold them accountable and are the best position to guard against employee injury arising from its collection and handling procedures.