Included in the upcoming August 10th rule on electronic reporting of workplace injuries, OSHA makes it clear that not all injuries justify post-accident drug testing, and that such mandatory policies may actually deter workers from reporting an accident.
There are many companies that have such mandatory policies in place, but now OSHA will require them to implement "a reasonable procedure" for employees and says companies will face penalties and enforcement scrutiny if they don’t.
Here is OSHA's commentary with regard to drug testing in that ruling:
“Although drug testing of employees may be a reasonable workplace policy in some situations, it is often perceived as an invasion of privacy, so if an injury or illness is very unlikely to have been caused by employee drug use, or if the method of drug testing does not identify impairment but only use at some time in the recent past, requiring the employee to be drug tested may inappropriately deter reporting.”
Here’s our ideal scenario: Employees take 60 – 90 seconds every morning to do an alertness test to get a reading on their state of mind. If they are struggling with cognitive alertness, then their supervisors advocate to reassign them if there’s even a chance that they might pose a safety risk.
If it’s a chronic issue, then the company gets an opportunity to help someone they care about with their struggle to be at their best, or take action to set boundaries before something happens. Pretty simple.
By not being a punitive measure, alertness testing is a way to support and retain good workers:
- Alertness testing is agnostic, focusing only on the thing that matters – safety.
- It can give you and your employees a heads up before an accident happens.
- Many alertness issues exist outside of the narrow test panel of drugs and alcohol, including a bad night’s sleep, the onset of illness, or emotional distraction. Do we care about catching illicit behavior, or do we care that our employees are safe?
- As OSHA stated, if drug testing “does not identify impairment but only use at some time in the recent past” then it has indeed become invasive.
Some companies don’t even have a drug testing program because the demographic of their employees means they wouldn’t be able to keep them if they had such a program. Alertness testing helps you identify employees who are struggling with alertness on the job. That’s the information you’re after.
OSHA is making a comment on what is becoming obvious to all of us: Drug testing is often irrelevant, and may even be a deterrent to safety. Still, everyone would agree that employers need to know that their employees arrive at their jobs fit to work, and alertness testing does just that.