A very important, and often overlooked topic, of safety in the workplace is drug testing. Many daily tasks such as forklift operating, machine operating, or working at elevated heights are considered dangerous under good conditions. These already dangerous job descriptions become even more risky if being done while under the influence, which makes this an incredibly important safety topic that employers need to have a good handle on.
Every employer wants employees working in a safe manner and safety policies must include employees that are not under the influence to ensure that. With recent events such as legalization of certain drugs, as well as other drug epidemics, employers should be making sure their current process mitigates any potential safety issues. Many workplaces have drug testing programs in place to avoid workplace disasters. There are several types of testing that occurs in the workplace such as:
–Pre-hire – this requires the passing of a test prior to being hired by a workplace
–Random – this allows the employer to at any point perform testing, usually for a percentage of the employees if not all at any given time. Some places do this monthly, quarterly, yearly etc.
–Reasonable Suspicion – As it sounds, if an employer suspects drug-use, they can request a drug test
–Post-incident – this is done after an incident occurs, such as property damage
–Return-to-duty and follow-up – This testing is done for employees who may have had a history of drug use in the past, or post completing a rehab program as a condition of returning to work
Drug testing, however, specifically Post-incident testing, is under the most scrutiny from OSHA. There was a Final Rule established by OSHA that required the tracking of work-related injuries and illnesses through an online system. This topic can be read about further HERE in a previous blog. In short, critics worried this public publishing of injury and illness will “incentivize underreporting and push employers to overemphasize lagging indicators”. With all that being said, the concern with post-incident drug testing in reference to this OSHA issue is that it can be seen to some as an invasion of privacy. In other words, “OSHA believes that subjecting employees to a drug test as an automatic consequence of reporting an injury, regardless of the probability that drug use caused or contributed to the injury, will lead some employees to hide their injuries – an outcome that both conflicts with OSHA’s goal of obtaining accurate injury and illness data and prevents employers from learning about the injuries and illnesses their workers incur and taking appropriate steps to address hazards”.
Overall, drug testing in the workplace is more complicated than ever, with valid safety concerns on both sides. Employers obviously have an invested interest in reducing hazards and being concerned with safety and lack of substance abuse while on the job. Creating an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable and are willing to discuss concerns and report their injuries without fear will increase safety awareness across the organization.