Also known as Reasonable Suspicion Training, it’s required of DOT employers.
Supervisor training educates supervisors about workplace drug testing policies and informs supervisors their responsibilities when it comes to enforcing those policies. Supervisor training must be effective and have a long-lasting impact on the audience.

When live training is not cost effective or logistically difficult, online training can be a practical way to deliver supervisor training.

What’s Included in Supervisor Training?

Some supervisors attend training only once, while others attend annually, and others may never go through the process at all. Certainly a refresher is a good idea, though not a requirement.

Each mode of the DOT supervisors training requirements. Some must occur in a single session and others must reoccur periodically.

Supervisors should have a basic knowledge and understanding of the different components of drug and alcohol testing, including the collection process: (e.g. an explanation of why a split specimen is collected), what happens when a specimen is received by the laboratory, what role the Medical Review Officer (MRO) plays, and when and why a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is required.

Reasons for testing, and when to perform each of them should be included in training. For example, training should cover the definition of post-accident, random and drug testing for suspicion or cause.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) definition of an accident varies from mode to mode, and states may have their own definitions of what constitutes an accident.

Some states require a dollar amount assessed on property damage to define a workplace accident that necessitates a drug and/or alcohol test. It is important to know the requirements for each state in which the employer operates.

Supervisors should clearly understand their role in the drug and alcohol testing process. They should be able to recognize workplace problems related to drugs or alcohol, be familiar the physical signs and symptoms of their use and abuse, and understand what their responsibilities are.

A critical part of testing for suspicion is documentation of the situation. The best way to appropriately document a reasonable cause situation is the use of a checklist for signs and symptoms. A supervisor should not be expected to make a diagnosis, since many of the signs and symptoms of drug use appear similar. A checklist provides both guidance through the documentation process, and uniformity in what, and how an employee’s behavior is documented. It also helps to eliminate the fear associated with making a reasonable suspicion call in the workplace through the use of a standard managerial process.

It is important for the supervisor to understand how to intervene with the employee, and also how to recognize the difference between a performance-based issue and a potential crisis situation.

A supervisor should learn how to approach an employee without using language that is accusatory or inflammatory. The employee interaction should be approached with concern for the employee and be carried out in a professional and respectful manner. Proper supervisor training appropriately will give supervisors confidence when situations arise.

Maintaining confidentiality with the individual suspected of drug or alcohol use is critical. Even though it’s very tempting for a supervisor to confide in a co-worker about the situation, this should be avoided. The supervisor should approach the employee in a private setting and not in front of their co-workers. It is acceptable, however, to have another supervisor present when the employee is approached. In fact, many DOT modes and state laws require more than one individual to make a determination of reasonable suspicion.

Proper supervisor training protects the employer, the supervisor and even the individual suspected of drug or alcohol use at work. Don’t wait till a crisis develops. Be prepared.

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