New service offers random drug testing program

Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2004

Companies wanting to set up a random drug testing program for employees have a new option.

Tongass Substance Screening, at 8420 Airport Blvd., opened an office April 26 because of the high number of safety-dependent tourism businesses in Juneau, manager Michael Maas said.

Tongass is the only service in Juneau that administers a random drug testing program for both employees covered under federal Department of Transportation regulations and those who are not. Federal regulations require testing of those who operate equipment such as airplanes, boats and helicopters. The nearest such service has been in Anchorage until now.

"There was that need and no local solution for that," Maas said.

Gastineau Human Services in Juneau administers a random drug testing program only for employees not covered by federal transportation regulations, said Dave Miller, who heads the program. GHS needs to contract with a third-party administrator to offer the service for employees who must meet federal rules due to stricter government testing standards.

Tongass' main office in Ketchikan previously used GHS for its collection site. Now Tongass' new office in Juneau is competition, Miller said.

Companies offering helicopter, boating, bus and airplane excursions want their employees drug-free, Maas said.

TEMSCO Helicopters of Ketchikan tests employees covered under federal transportation rules and those who are not, director of operations Joe Hicks said. TEMSCO has satellite locations throughout Southeast, including Juneau.

"The main reason is we want a drug-free workplace," Hicks said. "It's company culture and policy."

Pilots are required to be tested randomly under federal transportation rules, but TEMSCO wants to ensure that others who work around the equipment are also drug-free, Hicks said. That includes employees who fuel the helicopters and unload passengers.

"It's good to have your wits about you when you're near the tail end of those sharp metal blades," Hicks said.

TEMSCO once did its own random drug testing but found it too cumbersome, Hicks said. It contracted with Tongass Substance Screening's Ketchikan office 18 months ago.

Under the program, Tongass tracks which employees have been tested, does random selections, maintains copies of records and makes arrangements for testing in other communities.

Besides the random drug testing program, Tongass' services also include testing employees at hire, after they have had an on-the-job accident, or if the employer suspects drug or alcohol use. It also tests those on parole or enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program. Some parents have their children tested, Maas said.

Tongass plans to hire a second person for the Juneau office within the next two weeks to perform after-hours drug testing for any clients whose employees have an accident on the job.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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