New Hawaii Drug Testing Laws

According to Lt. Governor Aiona, three new laws will protect workers and neighborhoods from illegal drugs. Aiona signed the bills into law during his stint as Acting Governor in May 2007. All three laws took effect on July 1, 2007.

In a law that moves Hawaii to the forefront of drug testing, employers are now allowed to perform on-the-job drug testing using portable saliva swab test kits. The kits, which cost just $10 to $15 each, use saliva to check for drug use. The “oral fluid tests” are cheaper, faster and easier to use than urinalysis. The construction industry strongly advocated these tests, to replace the more expensive urine sample testing. Drug testing has been legally used in that industry since the 1980s. This new law applies to every employer that was previously approved for urinalysis, including the construction industry.

Using these simple tests, a cotton swab is rubbed inside the mouth. The test results are available in as little as 5 minutes. A urine test for drugs requires giving a sample in a clinic. Results take at least 4 hours, and often are not available the same day.

“Drug and alcohol abuse remain a problem in Hawaii’s workforce,” said Lt. Governor Aiona. “The law will go a long way towards helping to promote a drug-free workplace. This measure provides a cost effective on-the-job alternative to lab tests that can be costly and difficult to schedule.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, drug or alcohol abuse are involved in the majority of fatal accidents in the workplace. These laws represent an effort by the state government to make the workplace safer for everyone.

Although the new law permitting oral drug testing was effective on July 1, in many cases collective bargaining agreements will have to be updated before companies can start using the non-FDA approved tests. This procedure isn’t expected to take long, however, since the unions – as well as management and the state government – are in favor of the new law. According to union sources, they welcome the improved safety and working conditions that the tests will introduce.

One representative of the Pacific Resource Partnership, an alliance between contractors and the Carpenters Union Local 745, said construction workers and the industry pushed for the new tests as a way to decrease costs and save time while keeping job sites safe.

The cost savings are significant, with a typical swab test running only $15 compared to $50 to $60 for a urine test, according to our sources. This new law will greatly improve drug testing because it can be done onsite. Traditional tests could only be done in a clinic or doctor’s office. Contractors are usually working on a tight schedule, so they were reluctant to schedule time away from the job for drug tests.

This new law allows for the tests to be done on-site in a construction trailer or office.

Hawaii unions led the way in drug testing. The Hawaii Carpenters Union was the first in the industry to endorse drug testing. According to a source within the union, in the late 1980s about 30% of drug tests came back positive. Today, only about 3% to 5% of drug tests are positive. Of those, the majority are from new hires that have not yet started working. Those on the job realize that drug use just doesn’t work for the Hawaii Carpenters Union.

A second bill will provide $150,000 to increase the staffing of the state’s Drug Nuisance Abatement Unit, which investigates illegal drug houses and drug activity for the Attorney General’s Office. This bill is aimed at reducing the availability of illegal drugs at work and in the neighborhoods.

The third bill signed into law by Lt. Governor Aiona is part of the Lingle Administration’s push to establish SBIRT. SBIRT is the Screening, Briefing, Intervention, Referral and Treatment Program to aid those with substance abuse problems. The current bill allocates $84,000 for screening and outreach. The funds will be used by hospital emergency rooms and trauma centers for patients with injuries stemming from alcohol and illegal drug use.

SBIRT has already been recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (or SAMHSA) as a best practice due to its success in other states, including California, Alaska, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“This is something that I think is going to be a great asset for employers, especially in the construction industry where public safety is a huge factor,” said Lt. Governor Aiona.

Bookmark the permalink