On May 15, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published two sets of proposed regulations. The Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs Using Oral Fluid Specimens authorizes the use of oral fluid specimens. The second proposes changes to the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs using Urine Specimens to incorporate some of the changes made in the oral fluid testing proposal.
Here’s what you need to know about the proposed changes to the Federal drug testing guidelines:
The lengthy and detailed “preamble” to the proposed oral fluid testing guidelines is an excellent resource to understand the reasons for the proposed revisions. Not only does it explain the thinking and science behind the proposed regulations, the preamble also clearly spells out each of the revisions. Sometimes the revisions are not so easily identified when only looking at the guidelines themselves.
The proposed guidelines apply only to drug testing of Federal employees and not to Department of Transportation (DOT) testing.
These are proposed guidelines, not final guidelines. HHS is accepting comments to the proposed revisions through July 14, 2015. HHS will issue a final rule after reviewing the comments. The final rule will likely be very similar to the proposed rule, but will almost certainly have some changes based on the comments from affected parties.
The proposed HHS guidelines have no immediate impact for DOT testing. However, because DOT bases their regulations on HHS guidelines, these proposed rules hint at what the future of DOT drug testing might look like.
Here are a few of the highlights of the two sets of proposed guidelines:
Authorizes Oral Fluid Specimens
The guidelines will allow – but not require – Federal agencies to collect oral fluid specimens. Oral Fluid specimens will be analyzed by laboratories; however, just as with urine testing, instant oral fluid screening kits will not be authorized.
HHS may issue additional guidelines for testing with hair, sweat, etc.
As discussed in the preamble to the proposed oral fluid guidelines, HHS is starting with oral fluid as the first alternative test medium. If and when they decide to authorize other testing mediums such as hair or sweat, they will issue a set of guidelines for each medium.
Authorizes testing for Oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone.
These tests are not required by the proposed rules, but Federal agencies may test for them.
Authorizes testing for MDA and MDEA.
As with the above synthetic opiates above, these tests are not required.
Requires periodic retraining of MROs
The guidelines propose requiring MROs to be retrained every five years. Although the proposed guidelines do not include a requirement for MROs to earn CEUs, the preamble specifically asks for comments on the usefulness of requiring CEUs.