Managing and Enforcing a Random Hair Testing Program (Non-DOT Testing): A Case Study

By Duffy Nabors, Psychemedics Corporation

Testing applicants before bringing them into an organization is the first line of defense to establishing a drug-free workplace. However, in order to ensure that a workplace maintains its drug-free status, a robust random testing program should also be in place. In a random program, individuals for testing are typically automatically selected for testing (by a scientifically valid method) without advanced notice or planning.  It is important to check state and local laws to make sure that they allow random testing programs. Some states and cities allow reasonable suspicion testing based on  the observance of specific employee’s performance and behavior,  rather than a broad random program. Once you have established that a random program is legal, how do you make it as robust as it can be? Consider how one well-known auto manufacturer implemented a best-in-class program that positively impacted the entire workforce:

This particular manufacturer employs more than 30,000 people through 14 manufacturing facilities and over 1,500 dealerships. It is highly committed to providing employees a safe and drug-free work environment. The company’s pre-employment hair drug testing program had such profound advantages that it decided to implement a random testing program using the same hair test it adopted for pre-employment testing. Utilizing a hair test gave the employer the longest window of detection possible. This was important because the company felt that it was the best indicator of a person’s inclination to abuse (or not abuse) drugs. The intent was to deter drug-using applicants from applying, and also to deter those in the company’s current employment from using drugs.

In 2008, the new companywide random testing program was implemented. To initiate the program, a sweep of the managers was first conducted, followed up by the random testing of a specific percentage of the entire workforce. Employees were first given the option to come forward and admit to drug use, which put them in a “monitoring program” where they took an initial baseline test, then were tested quarterly for two years (6 percent of employees at one plant came forward). Any positive results after the baseline test then resulted in termination.

Program Results

  • Since implementing the random hair testing program, the overall positive rate has dropped by more than half.
  • When new locations introduce random hair testing, they begin by testing a higher percentage of the workforce. As the positive rates quickly decrease, the locations are able to gradually reduce the testing rate to a much lower percentage of the workforce.
  • As the program continued and it became clear that drug use would be detected, the overall positive rates continued to steadily decrease.
  • This comprehensive dual approach maximizes savings by keeping drug users out of the workforce, and minimizes the cost of the program by reducing the rate of random testing over time.


Random drug testing plays an integral role in any workplace drug testing program. Without a robust random program that identifies the widest window of detection, employee pools are subject to becoming a safe place for drug users to go undetected. Make sure that your state allows random drug testing and write it into your policy. You might be amazed at what you find.


Random Testing Case Study (Psychemedics Corporation)

Duffy Nabors is a National Account Manager for Psychemedics Corporation (, the pioneer and worldwide leader in hair drug testing. With over 18+ years of sales experience, he consults with businesses regarding how to implement and maintain the most effective drug screening program to increase their productivity and efficiency.