The Whiz Quiz

Last week after work, I peed in a cup for a $50 bonus. It’s my fourth time, which means I’ve earned $150 so far (no bonus pay the first time). My union and my employer must be serious when they tout their Drug Free Workplace Policy. We call them “whiz quizzes” and only get the $50 once the results yield a clean urine sample.

Supposedly, the test-positive rate in our industry/union is less than 1%. (I think this is for our region and not nationwide.) Any individual who tests positive is obligated to undergo an evaluation and treatment program.

For me last week, I was accompanied by a co-worker. Both of us had just returned to the shop from vacation and both of us were handed a slip of paper with instructions, locations and the “random” box checked. (The only other reasons we would be tested would be “for cause” or “post accident”. In these cases, there’s no $50 incentive attached.) We opted to go to our nearest testing center, which cost us about 45 minutes of personal time. The union partners with specific urgent care and health centers, so we are required to go only to a listed location and we must do so within 24 hours. The problem with this is having to mingle our non-urgent needs with the caseload of urgent care.

The first time was awful! At every step, somebody different was asking to see my identification and making me show them what was in my pockets. By the time I left, my driver’s license had been lost and I felt like I was on the receiving end of a “presumed guilty” kind of vibe. I’ve never gone back to that testing location again. Of the three testing places I’ve been to, ALL of them had coffee, water, snacks of the most hideous processed food variety and televisions blaring in the lobby.

The procedure is pretty much the same: check in with paperwork, complete basic questionnaire, acknowledge HIPAA policies and wait for a clinician call your name. Once in the back, the great pocket show and tell begins and all items not immediately attached to you are stowed in a locker. You’re instructed to wash your hands (my handwashes have always been supervised which cracks me up) and handed a cup and shown the minimum and maximum target volume lines. There is no lid to this cup (ewwww!). Then, the clinician puts blue dye in the toilet, instructs you NOT TO FLUSH and closes the door. There are additional signs on the toilet and on the walls telling you NOT TO FLUSH and the tank lid has red tape wrapped around it: a tamper-proof seal. The only thing in this room is the toilet and the toilet paper dispenser. Once finished, the clinician is waiting right outside the door and slaps a thermometer on the outside of the cup. There is a flurry of initialing for chain-of-custody and witnessing specimen preparation and sealing into cups and bags; then, it’s over. I’m given a copy of the paperwork (which I turn over to my company’s safety officer) and sent on my way.

I have not yet asked how much it costs for each drug test nor what kind of test panel is run for us. This site seems to have basic information on panel types and residual times of substances in the body.

For me, the $50 bonus is enough of a distraction right now because I don’t let myself get wound up with the overall costs or the testing bias. Most of my journeywomen and co-workers strike me as healthy and safe people (am I lucky or what?). We are conscientious on the job – not because we know we will have random pee-in-the-cup moments – but because this is what it takes to be a good electrician. Some of us come to work exhausted here and there because we are parents and our little kids kept us up the night before. Some of us come to work distracted because our minds are on heavier things. And I guess we can all booze it up on our free time and still pass the urine test. Our trade demands we be attentive, safe and lucid while on our job sites. But who says residual substances in the body are the only indicator of being a dependable electrician? I have a hard time believing random drug tests are a strong enough behavior-shaping agent on their own. We have a strong Employee Assistance Program and we have excellent evaluation and treatment programs for people who have spiralled into an unhealthy addiction. I suppose the random testing might be a catalyst to get a suffering co-worker into such a program. If it were my budget, however, I know I would have better ways to spend my money than on lidless cups and blue toilet dye and business relationships with urgent care centers.

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One Comment on “The Whiz Quiz”

  1. […] undergoing yet another whiz quiz, 18 hours of company and site-specific training and donning at least five types of security badges, […]


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