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Parkersburg contractors, trades drug testing program explained to lawmakers

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Before the TOPS Drug and Safety Program was created by the Parkersburg-Marietta Contractors and Trades Educational and Development Fund, a lineman from Lubeck may have traveled to five different job sites and submitted five different drug tests to five different drug policies.

In 1993 the Parkersburg Marietta Contractors Association and the Parkersburg Marietta Building Trades Council got together to help streamline the process.

The result, as Program Administrator Letha Haas explained to lawmakers Sept. 23, has been a work force with a drug usage rate of less than 1 percent.

Haas said the group has performed more than 75,000 drug screens since it started, and has expanded to provide OSHA training, first aid training and CPR training. The program covers the majority of West Virginia and sometimes crosses the border into neighboring states. A board of trustees made up of five contractors' representatives and five union representatives to ensure the program is working to its highest potential and the screening catches any new drugs that are on the market.

Haas said as part of the program and policy, each worker gets a drug screening every year. If a worker tests positive, he or she can contest the results and have them sent to another lab. The worker then has the option to meet with a counselor for an assessment and a treatment plan. After 30 days, the worker is generally able to test again to try to get back to work. If a worker who tests positive chooses not to meet with a counselor, he or she will not be eligible for work for the next 12 months.

"We pride ourselves on keeping our rate below 1 percent," Haas said. "Education is key."

Lawmakers had several questions about the program, about the various testing methods and treatment plans.

Delegate Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, told lawmakers the culture has begun to shift among workers.

"We train our apprentices that you're not going to do drugs and work in this field," he said.

Diserio is president of the Brooke-Hancock Central Labor Council.

So far in 2013, the program performed 2,900 drug screenings with 510 participating contractors and 45 industrial sites.

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