With substance abuse rising at an alarming rate in the workplace, organizations need to provide their employees with reasonable suspicion training. Reasonable suspicion training not only enhances workplace safety but is also a vital part of caring for your employees and learning to recognize potential health problems.

What is Reasonable Suspicion Training?

Reasonable suspicion training is what it sounds like. “Reasonable suspicion” is a legal term that refers to a standard of suspicion that is more than a mere hunch.

The US.Department of Transportation (DOT) describes Reasonable Suspicion as follows:

382.307 Reasonable suspicion testing.

(b) An employer shall require a driver to submit to a controlled substances test when the employer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver has violated the prohibitions of subpart B of this part concerning controlled substances. The employer’s determination that reasonable suspicion exists to require the driver to undergo a controlled substances test must be based on specific, contemporaneous, articulable observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech or body odors of the driver. The observations may include indications of the chronic and withdrawal effects of controlled substances. (Emphasis added)

Thus, reasonable suspicion training helps supervisors recognize and document signs and symptoms of substance abuse among their employees. Also, it allows supervisors to get employees suspected of impairment tested at the right time and tackle the problem before things become unpleasant.

The signs of drug or alcohol abuse can range from physical symptoms like motor problems or bloodshot eyes to observational indications. Among them we can mention moodiness or temporary cognitive ineptitude.

All federally regulated safety-sensitive employees are subject to testing. If supervisors determine that an employee be tested, refusing to do so is a Refusal to Test. As such, all supervisors are expected to get reasonable suspicion training. For DOT employers, it is required.

What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion for Testing?

By learning about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, supervisors will be better positioned to spot substance abuse signs. It’s also easier for them to decide which employee requires testing.

Reasonable suspicion is not focused on the likelihood and probability of tests resulting positive. Instead, the focus is on the fact that based on the signs that they recognize through training, they can suspect that an employee may be under the influence. Ruling out impairment is the primary intent of reasonable suspicion testing. Supervisor Training is valuable in this regard, and required for DOT employers.

Benefits of Reasonable Suspicion Training

Beyond the obvious problem of dealing with and caring for employees involved in substance abuse, reasonable suspicion training has certain benefits.

Reduces Chances of Error 

Naturally, substance abuse will hinder an employee’s productivity, reflecting poorly on the company’s performance. Frequent errors in an employee’s work is a good indicator. Such errors can be prevented by having employees tested at the right time and ensuring compliance with anti-substance-abuse regulations and your own company substance abuse policy. With increased efficiency, company growth can occur smoothly.

Decreases Rate of Absenteeism

Reasonable suspicion training also helps reduce absenteeism. Timely recognition and testing of potentially impaired employees will reduce absenteeism and boost workplace productivity and efficiency.


Reasonable suspicion training allows supervisors to ensure their employees’ safety at the right time. This is not restricted to the employee who is suspected of substance abuse. It is essential for everyone’s safety in the workplace and to create a safer work environment as a whole. In fact, most workplace injuries resulting from substance abuse are to innocent co-workers.

For workers who perform safety-sensitive work (drivers, manufacturers, forklift operators, auto mechanics/porters), detecting a substance abuser can prevent major accidents. The training is also vital for public safety, especially when it comes to transportation companies.

It is crucial that in learning the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, supervisors understand that impairment at work is a hazard to everyone.  Reasonable suspicion is only applicable when substance abuse currently exists and does not refer to past issues.

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