Everything You Need To Know About Drug Testing After A Workplace Accident

Topics

  • Effects of Substance Abuse to Employees
  • Safety in the Workplace
  • Why Conduct DrugTesting?
  • Statistics about Workplace Safety
  • Laws Governing the Responsibilities of an Employer
  • Post-Accident Drug Testing
  • Kinds of Post-Accident Drug Testing
  • Common drug testing methods used after workplace accidents:
    • Urine
    • Breath
    • Blood
    • Hair
    • Oral fluids
    • Sweat
  • Legality of Post-accident Drug Testing

workplace drug testingPhoto courtesy of Pixabay

More companies are now requiring applicants to submit themselves to drug tests prior to employment. With the increase in the number of drug-related cases, even employees have to undergo mandatory 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.

In this regard, employers have raised positive and negative reactions to the issue. Some support the move, saying that they are now able to pinpoint who are drug users, and can therefore minimize the risk of workplace accidents as well as increase work productivity. The downside, however, is that it could create an uncomfortable or psychologically stressful scenario for employees, which in turn may affect the quality and productivity at work.

Employers suffer tremendously when hiring drug users, as drugs may affect their performance and can also hurt them financially. Habitual drug users will always find ways to get hold of their choice substance. Unfortunately, this may lead to thefts and even heinous crimes.

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 who died in the workplace are positive for drugs.

Effects of Substance Abuse to 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
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Safety in the Workplace

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 machineries, it is important that employees are free from such substances. 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.

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

It is because of this that companies require employees to submit themselves to mandatory drug testing. Anyone who refuses will be subject to disciplinary action and may in any event imply that an employee is guilty.

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Why Conduct Drug Testing?

Here are some of the most common reasons why employers implement drug testing in the workplace:

  • To discourage employees from alcohol and drug abuse
  • To prevent hiring individuals who are using illegal drugs
  • To identify employees who have alcohol and/or drug problems
  • To provide a safe work environment for employees
  • To protect the public and instill confidence among consumers that employees are working safely
  • To comply with state or federal law regulations
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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 percent 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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Laws Governing the Responsibilities of an Employer

The employer’s interest should not only be focused on financial gain, but also the welfare of the people that works for the company. The following should be recognized in order to provide a safe work environment for employees:

  • 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 OSH Act.
  • An employer should examine the workplace condition to ensure that he conforms to the standards established by OSH.
  • 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.
  • 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 on 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 on 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 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 financial burden on U.S. workplace.
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Post-Accident Drug Testing

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 may be a reasonable policy for any company, but it has built a negative connotation as 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 drug. It is of importance to be able to establish criteria prior to requiring a drug test to be performed to 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.

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Kinds of Post-Accident Drug Testing

Opioid Drug TestWorkplace Multi-Drug Testing Kit

Post-accident drug testing is required for employees who are suspected to have been impaired with 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.

Here are some of the common drug testing methods used after workplace accidents:

Urine

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.

Breath

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.

Blood

Blood tests provide more accurate readings in the presence of alcohol and drugs. However, some people are apprehensive with blood drug tests because it is the most invasive of all tests.

Hair

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 fluids

The inner cheek is swabbed to collect an oral sample. 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.

Sweat

A skin patch is used to determine drug presence and is placed for certain number of hours. However, this is only common among those who are on parole or under probation for compliance.

Individuals who submit themselves to drug testing are tested for the following substances:

  • Phencyclidine
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • THC (cannabinoids, marijuana)

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.

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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.

Here are some of the stipulations according to OSHA:

  • Drug testing must never be used to threaten or coerce employees to avoid reporting injuries or illnesses.
  • The workplace drug testing policy should involving testing employees only on the condition that the employees in question are directly involved in the incident, and that the testing procedure is used to confirm that the impairment was caused by drug use.
  • Drug testing should not be conducted to employees when the incident doesn’t seem to involve drug use or abuse. Some examples include muscle strain injuries, insect bites, or accidents caused by machine malfunction.

In other words, the drug testing policy should give the employer a clear understanding of why the accident occurred, as well as contribute to the safety of employees.

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Conclusion

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.

Helpful Links and Resources

http://drugabuse.com/library/workplace-drug-abuse/

http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_and_Safety_at_Work_etc._Act_1974

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/osh_10292015.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupational_Safety_and_Health_Act_(United_States)

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3000.pdf

http://www.natlawreview.com/article/new-osha-rule-limits-permissible-post-accident-drug-testing

http://workplace.samhsa.gov/FedPgms/Pages/Mand_Guid_04.aspx

https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/


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