There are many reasons to put your drug-free workplace policy in writing. Here are some substance abuse policy considerations:

  • A written policy may be required by regulations, a state drug-free workplace program, by certain contracts or by your organization’s insurance carrier(s).
  • A written policy provides a record of your organization’s efforts to provide a safe, healthy and productive workplace.
  • A written policy provides documentation in the event the policy is challenged and may protect the employer from certain kinds of claims by employees.
  • A written policy is easier to explain to employees, supervisors, and others.

Substance Abuse Policy Considerations – Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should contain the organization’s goals and intentions for the substance policy. Describe the organization’s definition of substance abuse, and explain how and why the policy was developed. For example: Was it developed in meetings with employees representing different and diverse segments of the workforce? Or in cooperation with the union? Or in collaboration with legal counsel or insurance carrier? Or in response to concerns about recent legislation or reports of growing substance abuse in the news? Or, if applicable, “to meet the requirements of applicable laws and regulations”? Whatever the case, you should include a Statement of Purpose.

If any employees are covered by DOT regulations, you will need to address the specific requirements of each DOT agency. For example, there are 12 points that must be addressed for a policy to comply with FMCSA requirements. Read them in §382.601.

You may want to emphasize:

  • The policy’s immediate objectives, which may be to comply with drug-free workplace regulations (if applicable) and to prevent drug-related workplace accidents, illnesses, absenteeism, and performance problems.
  • The policy’s long-term goals of protecting and improving employee health, safety, and productivity, in part by addressing workplace alcohol and drug misuse.
  • The policy’s goals to protect the health and safety of all employees, customers and the public.
  • The policy’s intent to safeguard employer assets from theft and destruction, or protect trade secrets
  • The policy’s goal to maintain product quality and company integrity and reputation.
  • The employer’s requirement to comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 or any other applicable federal, state or local laws.


Items to consider (in no particular order):

  • Any drug-free workplace laws and regulations with which the organization comply
  • Organization’s definition of substance abuse?
  • What employee behaviors are expected?
  • What substances and behaviors are prohibited?
  • Who is covered by the policy?
  • If safety is a goal, do your job descriptions describe safety sensitive positions?
  • Non Regulated vs. Regulated employees? DOT, FMCSA, FRA, FTA, PHMSA, FAA
  • When does the policy apply? During work hours only. During organization-sponsored events after normal business hours?
  • Where does the policy apply? In the workplace while workers are on duty? Outside the workplace while they are on duty or on call? When are remote workers considered subject to policy requirements? How about when employees are in organization-owned vehicles while they are off duty?
  • Who is responsible for carrying out and enforcing the policy?
  • How is the policy communicated to employees?
  • Who is the DER? The Designated Employer Representative is the person designated by the employer to answer policy and program questions. The DER is the liaison with all drug and alcohol testing service agents (third party administrator, clinic, MRO and laboratory), employees and company. The DER is the main contact person and go​-to​person as it relates to the management of the employer’s ​drug testing program. Employees must be able to reach out to an authorized person should they have any questions regarding a company’s​program.
  • Medical Review Officer. Make sure your provider uses one.
  • Will the policy include testing for alcohol?
  • Do any union contracts have a say in what you can have in your policy?
  • Prohibited behavior: impairment, possession of drugs or alcohol in lockers, vehicles, etc.
  • Are employees required to notify supervisors of drug-related convictions?
  • Are employees required to inform employer if they are prescribed any medication that could adversely affect their ability to work safely?
  • Are employer searches of lockers, desks, company vehicles addressed?
  • Reasons for drug and alcohol testing: Pre-employment, Random, Post Accident, Suspicion, Periodic.
  • Consequences for violating the policy
  • Employee confidentiality
  • Drug panel: What drugs are being tested. Saying merely “illegal drugs” is not specific enough. Neither is “Five panel drug test.”
  • Specimen type(s) – Do you have the flexibility to test urine, hair and oral fluid specimens?
  • Second/Last Chance? Can an employee keep her job after a failed drug or alcohol test by going through EAP and a treatment program?
  • Do you have an EAP? If not, do you have a plan for referrals for treatment?
  • What qualifies as post accident? DOT defines for regulated employees. Non-regulated employers can define. Understand OSHA rules on post accident testing.
  • Refusal to test– define what it is and consequences.
  • Random testing?
  • What is your policy on negative dilute specimens? Is it different for pre-employment vs. random tests?
  • Policy acknowledgement form
  • If this is a new program, will you test all existing employees? Effective date of policy (30, 60 days?)

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