The need for drug and alcohol testing services for government and private organizations with stringent drug-free workplace policies has offered opportunities to a growing small business.

Reliance Testing operated from a home base for 4-and-1/2 years after it was first formed in June 1999 and opened its office in December in Hagåtña.

Marketing itself as a full-service drug and alcohol testing services and maritime consortium company Reliance Testing provides corporate clients and individuals federally regulated drug tests onsite at workplaces or at its Hagåtña office and assists companies with their drug policies either by training personnel to conduct drug tests or by managing a company’s drug-monitoring policy with random drug tests of employees and record keeping and reports.

Reliance Testing is owned and managed by JoAnnie Hall sole proprietor and director with one employee as coordinator. Hall credits her husband for the new venture. “After coming to Guam in 1997 my husband opened his own private investigative service firm. In the course of his work some of his clients asked if he could do drug tests as a matter of background checks. He saw the business potential in this area.” Hall was a flight attendant at that time but she said “We both took the course and training to learn about the regulations and collection procedures before starting the company.” In the first 2-and-1/2 years of the business while Hall was still flying she and her husband worked from home. After she was furloughed following 9/11 Hall concentrated on developing the business.

As business picked up Hall opened the administrative office and drug-testing center for individuals and corporate staff. In 2003 she expanded to include certified alcohol testing. The office is equipped with the latest portable alcohol breathalyzer machine.

Drug tests are essentially categorized into Department of Transportation and non-Department of Transportation drug-testing programs. The DOT encompasses several agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard which is part of the Homeland Security Department; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Federal Aviation Administration; Federal Railroad Administration; Maritime Administration and Federal Transit Administration.

In Guam the U.S. Coast Guard regulates and monitors drug-testing programs of the local marine industry. The DOT drug-testing program covers personnel working on commercial marine vessels including all boat captains crew members and deckhands. It also encompasses Jet Ski operators driving banana boats and any individual performing safety-sensitive operations or functions aboard a vessel even if that person is not a paid employee.

Under Federal Carrier Safety Administration’s requirements the DOT drug-test test program also extends to drivers and operators of motor vehicles or a combination of motor vehicles used to transport passengers cargo or property.

Only a Human Health Service Approved Laboratory may conduct a DOT drug-test urinalysis and a medical Review Officer who is a qualified physician must review all lab reports and results. Reliance Testing retains the service of Advance Toxicology an HHS approved lab in Memphis Tenn. and an MRO in Honolulu.

Non-DOT drug test programs are usually conducted locally for private businesses that regulate a drug-free policy and practice in the workplace. Examples of such organizations are hotels restaurants service firms such as security companies private and public schools and some government of Guam agencies. “Although workers in the hospitality service industry or other private enterprises are not operating safety-sensitive equipment or tasks if they have a drug habit they may be tempted by theft of money or property and hence pose a security risk to their employers ” Hall said. She said private sector drug policies often mirror DOT testing regulations.

Reliance Testing’s corporate clients include those in the petroleum marine and hospitality industries security firms bus companies Raytheon Technical Services Guam the Guam Mass Transit Authority and the probation office.

Hall attributes the growth in her client base to flexibility in servicing requests. She told the Journal “Although our office hours are advertised as 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. we’re able to accommodate after-hours requests if an individual or company needs the tests done urgently. I’m also flexible with on-site drug tests. Some of the larger testing service firms require a minimum number of people for on-site random drug and alcohol tests or an established corporate account to conduct on-site tests. I don’t mind if I’ve to be called to do on-site checks on a few or even one person.”

The business has grown nearly 30% since 2001 with the number of tests conducted now averaging 100 to 150 a month compared to 30 to 40 tests in 2001. “Reliance Testing’s fees are $27 for a non-DOT drug test; $75 for a DOT drug test including the cost of sending samples to Memphis for analysis lab reports and the MRO review; $90 for a DOT drug test with quick-screen service; and $40 per alcohol test. She charges a $10 training fee per person for companies wanting in-house personnel to handle drug tests.

Hall trained one person in drug-test collection procedures in 2003 to service Rota clients and is now developing business in Saipan with potential clients in the marine industry. She has trained two people in Saipan in anticipation of new business in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Hall’s ambition is to expand Reliance Testing’s presence in the outer Hawaiian islands in two years’ time. She cited a situation in 2003 where a mainland company called her for help to conduct drug tests in Lanai Hawaii after being turned down by other more established Oahu-based testing services companies. Hall’s willingness and flexibility won her the business and she also used the trip to obtain breath alcohol technician certification. But Hall was also cautious about expanding her business too rapidly. “I don’t want to grow the company too fast too soon. I have to keep my overhead low. Guam will still be the core base of our business even if we go into other markets.” MBJ