What Is a Safety-Sensitive Position?

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Posted by: David Garcia October 18, 2023

Conducting background checks can save your company thousands of dollars in potential accidents and injuries. 

Preventing bad hires will help to minimize the risk of workplace accidents, fraud, crime, and violence. 

Certain job roles are considered ‘safety-sensitive positions,’ and certain requirements must be met to ensure safety.

It’s important to follow the proper regulations and testing protocols, and this will also help you hire the best people for your company.

In this post, you’ll learn what a safety-sensitive position is and why you need background screening and drug tests for those roles. 

What Constitutes a Safety-Sensitive Position?

A safety-sensitive position refers to a job where an employee’s performance directly affects the safety of themselves or others, including roles where inadequate task performance or failure to perform could lead to safety incidents.

The most common safety-sensitive positions include: 

  • Drivers
  • Pharmacists 
  • Teachers 
  • Police officers 
  • Security 
  • Pilots 
  • Medical care providers 
  • Heavy equipment operators 
  • Nursing home employees
  • Child care providers 

It’s important to check local, state, and federal regulations and laws to see which jobs constitute safety-sensitive jobs and ensure you’re in compliance with relevant laws. You may be able to (or required to) conduct drug tests and gather information about relevant disabilities without infringing on privacy or anti-discrimination laws, but it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re in compliance.

The FMCSA and FAA are specific when the type of roles that involve safety-sensitive functions. The FAA Code of Federal Regulations lists which functions require a drug and alcohol testing program

The Purpose of Background Screenings for Safety-Sensitive Positions

Background screening is when organizations use third-party providers like us at ScoutLogic to properly vet candidates for job positions. 

The sources may include credit bureaus, public records, previous employers, and law enforcement. 

Without background screening, employers would only have the information provided by the applicant to make a hiring decision. The problem is that it’s easy for applicants to lie, mislead, or embellish their application. When the safety of others is on the line, proper background screening is even more important. 

Thus, background checks give employers a more complete picture of a job candidate, which will ultimately help recruiters to: 

  • Reduce workplace accidents, harassment, and other safety issues 
  • Preserve brand image and company reputation 
  • Prevent cases of theft and criminal behavior
  • Hire the most qualified individuals and boost efficiency 

Below, we cover some examples of background screenings you may want to conduct on certain safety-sensitive positions.

For certain safety-sensitive positions, you may be required to conduct specific checks on your employees. It’s important to make sure you’re following requirements for these types of positions, and additional screening may be required. Do your research to ensure you’re in compliance.


Reviewing the applicant’s public safety data and driving record is crucial for positions where employees or contractors need to operate motor vehicles. Typically, you’ll need to check the candidate’s motor driving records (MVR), which include the following: 

  • Driver license status (valid, expired, or suspended)
  • Class (operator, commercial driver’s license, etc.) 
  • Moving violations, restrictions, or suspensions 
  • Felony and misdemeanor convictions such as DUI 

Construction Workers 

Construction sites are inherently hazardous environments. In the event of accidents or safety breaches on a construction site, employers can be held liable.

Background checks verify the candidate’s qualifications, including licenses and certifications required to operate heavy machinery safely. The screening also usually involves criminal checks to reduce the risk of property damage or theft. 

Healthcare Providers 

Healthcare workers require employees to sometimes make life-or-death decisions; thus, they must perform well under pressure. 

Healthcare background checks help to ensure the safe, ethical, and competent practice of medicine at every level. Generally, any function that works with patients will require extensive background checks in the medical field, such as pharmacists, anesthesiologists, nurses, doctors, surgeons, etc. 

Beyond confirming licenses and education, background screenings are essential to ensure the highest standards of care. These screenings include checks that candidates aren’t on healthcare fraud watch lists, abuse registries, or disciplinary action lists, reducing the risk of patient harm and malpractice.

The Role of Workplace Drug Testing

Drug testing plays a vital role in maintaining a secure work environment. Operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol in these roles can jeopardize the safety of employees and others, potentially leading to severe harm or even fatalities. 

The purpose of drug tests is to reduce risks associated with substance abuse. It helps to create a safe workplace for everyone by reducing the risk of injuries and accidents caused by impaired workers. 

Many safety-sensitive positions require candidates to successfully pass a 5-panel urine drug test, which adheres to the standards set by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT).

The following substances are screened for in this test:

  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Cocaine 
  • Amphetamines
  • Opioids
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Ensure you are in compliance with what is required for the position you’re hiring for, which may include requiring a program for random drug testing.

Many employers choose to conduct drug testing during: 

  • Pre-employment screening
  • When there’s reasonable suspicion
  • Ongoing random testing
  • Following a workplace accident
  • After an employee returns to work following a positive test

In certain instances, additional tests such as breathalyzers or saliva tests may be necessary in order to detect alcohol use, particularly following workplace accidents. 

Ensure that you understand what’s required by law for specific positions and that your process aligns with those requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Examples of Safety-Sensitive Positions?

Safety-sensitive positions include roles where an employee’s performance greatly impacts the safety of others. Examples are pilots, truck drivers, heavy machinery operators, pharmacists, teachers, nursing home employees, construction workers, and healthcare professionals. These positions require increased alertness and focus to prevent accidents and ensure public safety.

Final Thoughts

In an ideal world, all candidates are truthful in their job applications. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. 

One hiring mistake can ruin your company’s credibility and reputation and may cost thousands in legal battles. 

When it comes to safety-sensitive positions, there’s more at risk than just your company’s financial situation. Hiring the wrong person jeopardizes the safety of your customers, employees, and any innocent bystanders. There are also requirements that you need to ensure you comply with.

For a wide range of background check search types, get in touch with ScoutLogic today!

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