By Eric Bartholomew, TSS-Keokuk
As a drug screen technician/collector, and Third Party Administrator (TPA), I can tell you from experience that dealing with a good Designated Employee Representative (DER) certainly makes my job a bit easier!
The DER is typically my main contact at a given entity (business, township, etc.), who is authorized to receive and discuss drug screen results. The specific responsibilities of the DER are outlined in 49 CFR part 40:
- Manage the company drug and alcohol screening program
- Act as liaison for drug and alcohol testing service agents
- Stay informed of test results
- Perform functions necessary according to the test results, such as removing employees from safety-sensitive duties, making decisions regarding testing and evaluations, receiving test results, reporting test results to state/local authorities as needed, following company policy regarding consequences of positive drug tests, and maintaining compliance with DOT regulations.
As the liaison for everyone who is involved in the drug screening program, the DER works to ensure that the testing and reporting process moves along as smoothly as possible. This can mean dealing with a resistant employee or making sure that the employer has hired qualified service providers for testing.
When there is an irregularity or a positive test result, the DER typically is responsible for taking the next steps with the employee such as removing them from safety-sensitive duties, ordering another test, or providing Substance Abuse Professional contacts for the employee. So one of the qualities of a good DER is that they are able to deal with delicate situations and make tough calls.
As the TPA it is always my priority to have a positive working relationship with the DER. A DER who is on top of the game communicates well with their TPA. We, as TPAs, rely on the DER to ensure that we have accurate records regarding the employees who are required to be in the testing pool. To help the TPA do their job, the DER is responsible for ensuring that the records are always updated and that individuals who are no longer performing safety-sensitive duties or have left the company are removed from the testing pool as soon as possible.
It is helpful when the DER can put in place consistent processes for keeping in touch with the TPA. For example, having standard operating procedures for notifying the TPA when an employee is on leave for more than 30 days or has left the company and having clear agreements with the TPA about the pre-employment testing and test reporting. TSS and the DERs in our consortium must work together closely to provide high-level management of the testing protocols. This protects the donor and the company.
It is crucial that as TPAs we can easily access the DER throughout the day to help us do our job. A good DER knows the employees they work with, who needs to be tested and when, and is familiar with their company drug and alcohol testing policy.
A DER may also serve in a supervisory position. In this case, the DER should be trained in recognizing the signs and symptoms of impairment. This is a required training in the DOT realm.
TSS, INC. offers a great training on the functions of a DER, called “You, The D.E.R.” We also offer “Signs and Symptoms for Supervisors” training, which covers DOT requirements. Contact TSS, INC. to arrange your training today!