The DER’s Role in Drug and Alcohol Testing
The Designated Employer Representative (DER) plays a vital role in drug and alcohol testing, serving as the point of contact for their company’s testing program. Every company with safety-sensitive employees falling under the authority of the Dept. of Transportation must appointment a DER. The DER’s role is defined in 49 CFR, Part 40 regulations. While the regulations do not specify who can act as a company’s DER, mid or executive level safety directors/managers, or human resources personnel commonly act in the DER capacity.
Know the Policy
In addition to knowing federal and agency-specific regulations, the DER should know their company’s testing policies for DOT covered employees as well as for non-DOT employees. At a minimum, a company’s DOT compliant testing policy must cover:
- Prohibited drug and alcohol related conduct
- Testing requirements and procedures
- Consequences and disciplinary actions for policy violations
- Employee rights and responsibilities in the testing program
- Medication policies and procedures
A process should be put in place by the DER that ensures all employees are made aware of the company’s drug and alcohol testing policy and obtain signed documentation of an employee’s policy training.
Service Agent Management
A large part of the DER’s responsibilities is to identify and utilize qualified service agents, such as breath alcohol technicians, specimen collectors, medical review officers, certified drug testing laboratories and substance abuse treatment professionals.
Some of the tasks the DER must perform in working with service agents:
- Know the agency requirements for random testing and ensure all eligible employees are in a random drug and alcohol testing pool
- Provide drug and alcohol testing service agents with the employee’s information and the reason for the test
- Receive alcohol test results from the service agent contracted to perform breath alcohol testing
- Receive drug test results from the Medical Review Officer
Removal and Reporting
One of the most important tasks a DER performs is to remove employees who violate the drug and alcohol testing policy from their safety-sensitive duties. Successful execution of these duties requires knowledge of the consequences to the employee for the different scenarios for alcohol test results and for drug test results as spelled out in the company’s DOT-compliant policy. For example, the DER must know the difference in consequences for an alcohol test result between .020 and .039, and an alcohol test result of .040 and greater. There are other scenarios for drug test results, in addition to positive tests, that a DER must respond to; dilute specimens and shy bladders are just two examples. At a minimum, the DER must be knowledgeable enough to know when and where to find the guidance to take the proper action in response to the variety of drug and alcohol test results.