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Oil and Gas Industry Finds Many Potential Workers Fail Drug Tests

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Employers in the oil and gas industry are having a difficult time finding enough workers who can pass drug tests, The Wall Street Journal reports. Prescription drug abuse is largely to blame.

The problem is particularly acute in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. While the rate of positive workplace drug testing has decreased slightly over the past few years for most employees, it has increased in workers such as truckers and pipeline workers, the article notes. Some workers are able to pass initial drug screenings by remaining drug free for a period before the test, but go back to using drugs once they start work.

More oil and gas companies are now looking to hire veterans and volunteer firefighters, many of whom have gone through periodic drug testing.

Positive drug tests for amphetamines and oxycodone are on the rise for workers who are federally mandated to be tested for drugs. Quest Diagnostics, which conducts such tests, found oxycodone in 3.1 percent of positive tests in 2011, up from 2.7 in 2009. Overall, positive drug tests for all workers fell slightly to 3.5 percent, from 3.6 percent in 2009.

Workers test positive for oxycodone about twice as often in random on-the-job drug tests, compared with tests conducted prior to employment. Workers who are tested after having an accident are three times as likely to have a positive test for oxycodone, compared with pre-employment tests, according to Barry Sample, Quest’s Director of Science and Technology for Employment Solutions.

Workers are more likely to abuse drugs if they suffer injuries on the job and receive prescription pain relievers, or have long stretches of unemployment, according to Neil Capretto, Medical Director at Gateway Rehabilitation Center, a drug-treatment organization with 20 locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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