By Brennen Portalski
When we hear the word “audit,” we often times feel a sense of panic – thoughts of whether or not proper documentation has been retained and if all processes and procedures have been followed through correctly. Many times we may wonder, “What is going to happen if we are non-compliant?”
Audits can certainly be daunting, and drug and alcohol program audits are no different. However, with a bit of preparation, as well as knowing your company’s drug and alcohol testing program and the applicable regulations, audits do not have to be scary.
What is an audit, and what is reviewed during an audit?
Drug and alcohol program audits are conducted to ensure employers are maintaining compliance with applicable regulations. Whether or not the regulations are federally mandated, it is important that employers understand their requirements and options available for testing. When was the last time your company’s drug and alcohol program was reviewed? How about your company policy?
Now is the time to audit your own company and make necessary adjustments that better suit your company with the changing times. Some of the key items that should be up to date include: having a compliant drug and alcohol testing plan, completing all pre-employment contingency requirements, completing required testing, proper recordkeeping, ensuring employees are subject to random testing, and procedures for post-accident and/or reasonable cause incidents.
Who are the responsible personnel during an audit?
If a company is subject to federal Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing regulations, then these are certainly areas that an auditor will review when conducting a drug and alcohol program audit. For these reasons, it is critical that employers have Designated Employer Representatives (DERs) that have the knowledge and access of the program requirements as well as the authority to make important decisions based on drug and alcohol test results. Maintaining a strong working knowledge base through DERs could make all the difference should your company be called upon for an audit.
What happens when an audit is scheduled?
When audits are scheduled, the employer typically has a generous period of time between the notification from the auditor and the audit date to prepare. If you work with a Third Party Administrator, or TPA, to maintain records, inform your TPA as soon as you are notified of your audit, as your TPA can assist. It is extremely important to understand that auditors want to be sure that the employer is compliant and will hold the employer accountable for any shortcomings in the audit, not the TPA. For that reason, employers should always ensure that their TPA maintains adequate records, as the employer is ultimately responsible for these items during an audit.
What happens after an audit?
The findings of an audit are often received several weeks after the initial meeting. Each auditor is different, and most are willing to work with a company to help fix any violations that are brought to light in their review. Auditors offer an incredible wealth of information, as they have experience with every facet of drug and alcohol programs. Take advantage of their experience and work with them to answer any questions that could help fine tune your drug and alcohol program.
The bottom line is that an audit is conducted to ensure compliance with applicable state and federal regulations. Drug and alcohol testing programs are in place to ensure that the workplace, along with the general public, are safe. Auditors are not at your office to try and catch an employer doing something wrong, they simply are there to ensure that compliance is maintained to ensure safety. Understanding this point can certainly relieve some of the anxiety when you hear that you are being audited, but also be certain to take the necessary steps ahead of time to ensure that your audit is successful!