Post-Accident Drug Testing

More companies require applicants to agree to future random drug testing prior to employment. With a surging number of accidents and injuries, employees have to undergo post-accident drug testing as well.

While some people may be in favor of workplace drug testing, other raised the issue as a perfect example of violating a person’s rights. One of the main concerns of those who are involved with drug abuse is the fear of being “branded” or “marked” for life once proven to be positive for drugs.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Employees

Drug abuse by employees leads to a wide array of debilitating situations, some of which include the following;

  • Low productivity and poor performance
  • Habitual tardiness in reporting to work
  • Tendency to jump from one employer to another

    Post-Accident Drug Testing Information

    According to OSHA in an August 2016 release, mandatory drug testing should no longer be implemented unless a workplace injury may have been caused by drug abuse of an employee. The drug testing policy is necessary for every company, but the thought of random drug testing invasion of privacy.

    If the illness or injury was less likely caused by drug use of an employee, or if the drug testing was based on some instances in the past, requiring an employee to undergo drug testing should not be done.

    OSHA emphasizes that post-injury drug testing should be limited to those who are likely to have been impaired with the use of a drug. It is of importance to be able to establish criteria prior to requiring a drug test to be performed by an injured employee.

    Employers who are required to undergo tests as a requirement of the state or federal law should continue to be subjected to drug testing as stated in the OSHA ruling. Employers who refuse to comply will face penalties for each violation. The penalty ranges from $12,000 per violation to $120,000 for repeated violations. 

    Types of Post-Accident Drug Testing

    Post-accident drug testing is required for employees who are suspected to have been impaired by the use of drugs while at work. The result of the drug test will determine the level of drug use of employees that to some extent will be reason enough for them to be terminated from their jobs.

    Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing requires a Medical Review Officer to evaluate tests. They identify substances tested based on the Federal Drug Testing programs and are required to use laboratories only certified by SAMHSA.

    Common Post-Accident Drug Testing Methods

    Urine drug test

    The most common method of drug testing is urinalysis. This is done with strict precautionary measures like adding a dye in the toilet, turning off the faucet inside the toilet, and preventing urine samples from being adulterated or substituted. Once the sample has been provided, this is sent to accredited laboratories for testing. Note that the certification only applies to 5 substances based on the Federal Drug Testing Programs.

    If for some reason, the initial and final tests are positive, the Medical Review Officer will talk to the individual and ask if there are medications prescribed to him to treat any medical condition. The person will be asked to present the prescription given by the physician. If this has been proven, then a negative result will be reported to the employer.

    Breathalyzer test

    This method is used to determine the alcohol level in the blood. A breath-alcohol device or breathalyzer is used: the individual blows into the device, and the result is shown as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). A reading of more than 0.04 is reason enough to not allow an individual to resume with job duties until a specific return-to-duty process has been completed.

    Hair follicle exam

    Using hair drug analysis to test for the presence of alcohol or drugs has a bigger “testing window”. Substances inside the system of an individual can stay longer in the hair compared to urine or blood tests for up to 90 days.

    Oral fluid test kit

    The inner cheek is swabbed to collect an oral sample using a saliva drug test kit. This is a good way of testing for the use of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. However, drugs do not remain in oral fluids as long as those from urine. Presence of drugs can only be detected with current use.

      Drug testing for suspected individuals are shouldered by the employee during their working hours, thus individuals are also compensated. This is based on the Fair Labor Standard Act under the Department of Labor of the U.S.

      Legality of Post-accident Drug Testing

      As mandated by OSHA, drug testing may only be performed on employees once it has been established that the workplace injury or impairment is directly connected to drug or alcohol abuse. 

      OSHA Random Drug Testing Laws

      A written drug testing policy gives employers and employees a clear understanding of random drug testing and post-accident drug testing procedures:

      • Drug testing must never be used to threaten or coerce employees to avoid reporting injuries or illnesses.

      • The workplace drug testing policy should involve testing employees only on the condition that the employees in question are directly involved in the incident, and that a post-accident drug test is issued to confirm impairment.

      • Workplace drug testing products should not be used on employees when the incident doesn’t seem to involve drug use or abuse.
      • An employer should examine the workplace condition to ensure that he conforms to the standards established by OSHA.

      • An employer should ensure that his employees are equipped with safety equipment all the time and that these should be properly maintained.

      • There should be a clear understanding of potential hazards by providing color codes or signs to warn employees.

      • Safety training should be provided to employees in a manner that they would understand.

      • An employee should provide enough information to employees who are exposed to or are handling hazardous chemicals. There should be a program to provide training to these employees so that they may be aware of how to handle their jobs with precautionary measures.

      • Employers should provide medical training and examinations when required by OSHA standards.

      • A state-plan equivalent must be available to inform employees of their rights and responsibilities. This information – in a form of OSHA poster – should be placed in a prominent place within the workplace.

      • All fatalities should be reported within 8 hours to the nearest OSHA office; all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours.

      • Employers should keep all records pertaining to injuries and illnesses of his employees. Companies that have less than 10 employees are exempted from this requirement.

      • Access to the log of work-related injuries and illnesses should be provided to employees, former employees and their representatives.

      • Medical records and exposure records should be accessed by employees or their authorized representatives.

      • The names of authorized employee representatives should be given to the OSHA compliance in the event that an inspection should be done.

      • There should be no discrimination against employees who exercise their rights under the Act.

      • Any citations made by OSHA should be posted at or near the work area. It should remain posted until the violation has been corrected. Abatement verification documents should be posted.

      • Any cited violations should be corrected before the deadline set by OSHA and must submit required abatement verification documents.

      • As per OSHA ruling, all employers are encouraged to adopt a program/intervention that will reduce workplace injuries and lessen the financial burden on the workplace.

      Benefits of Random Drug Testing

      There are conflicting views about random drug testing in the workplace. However, when employees undergo frequent random drug testing, there is a smaller risk of having to issue an incidental drug test in the future. Employers in safety-sensitive industries are some of the greatest advocates since random drug testing is often necessary to prevent employees from operating vehicles or machinery when under the influence.

      According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), about 69 percent of drug users are employed. Of this number, roughly a third are aware of the illegal drug use inside the workplace. It has been estimated that about 10 to 20 percent of workers who died in the workplace tested positive for drugs.

        1. Random drug testing improves workplace safety.

        The employer’s main concern is to sustain the business, and this is possible with the help of employees who performs dutifully. However, employees who are substance users may exhibit lackluster performance at work.

        To ensure safety, most especially for those who are working in the mining industry or with big machinery, it is important that employees are free from such substances. 

        2. Random drug testing discourages employees from using drugs.

        Once an individual has taken drugs, his decision-making process may be impaired, eventually leading to accidents. Employees who are on drugs pose danger to their co-employees as well. With this fact in mind, random drug testing encourage colleagues to stay sober out of respect for each other.

        3. Random drug testing identifies employees with drug problems.

        Drug testing may not be welcomed by every employee. However, there should be a need to provide a program wherein the employees are informed about the dangers of drug use and how it can greatly affect their jobs, their health, and the safety of their co-employees. Through this program, it is expected that employees would have a clearer understanding, and those who may already be involved with drug use/abuse may step forward and seek intervention.

        4. Random drug testing instills public confidence.

        According to the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, it is the duty of an employer to ensure a safe working environment for employees. This includes disallowing any employee who may be impaired due to alcohol or drug use to carry out their respective workload.

        5. Random drug testing complies with state and federal law regulations.

        An employer should be able to provide a workplace that is free from serious hazards and must comply with the rules and regulations as imposed under The Occupation Health and Safety Act (OSHA). Anyone who refuses to submit to a mandatory random drug test will be subject to disciplinary action.

        Statistics about Workplace Safety

        The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), discussed some of the figures involving workplace safety and drug use:

        • More than 50 percent of injury and sickness cases in 2014 involved any of the following: job transfer, days off from work, and other restrictions.
        • About 1.7 cases of injury and sickness per 100 full-time employees were logged.

        With regards to fatal occupational injuries in 2014, there was an increase of 2% from the total of 4,679 cases compared to fatal work injuries in 2013. This result was based on the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) under the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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