There is a growing popularity, and legalization, of different drugs in American society. Companies face the dilemma of controlling the effect of drugs in the workplace. Currently there are 29 states that allow medical marijuana and 2 states that allow recreational marijuana use.
In addition, every state contains access to prescription drugs that many people need, but can often interfere with workplace safety. Companies need to be aware of the risks that drugs can have on their workplaces. They should also be knowledgeable of preventative drug strategies to increase safety.
New Federal Post-Accident Policies
Previously, companies would drug test every person that was involved in a job accident. This testing highlighted whether the accident was a result of natural error or the influence of drugs. Many times, if the results came back positive, the employee would face termination. However, in 2016, this policy changed in favor of employees. The new policy states that post-accident drug tests could only be given in cases with “reasonable possibility” that the drug was a “contributing factor to the accident.” This policy largely protects employees who worked while on drugs, but may have had nothing to do with the accident. However, many accidents are a result of human error as opposed to a result of drug usage.
Despite the new federal policies, many companies still want to ensure their workplace is drug-free. To accomplish this, companies are switching to preventative strategies that focus on addressing the issue of drugs before there’s an accident. Proven strategies include: pre-employment drug screenings and random drug tests.
Pre-Employment Drug Screenings
Pre-employment drug screenings serve the purpose of learning if a potential employee is a current drug user. This information can save money that might have went towards paying for a work accident caused by the future drug-impaired employee. In addition, the loss of productivity when comparing a drug-impaired employee and a regular employee can be glaring. For this reason, pre-employment drug screenings can be incredibly valuable for a company to use. Most companies use five-panel drug tests that look for 5 major drugs: THC, opiates, PCP, cocaine and amphetamines. This will exclude detecting any prescription drugs that do not impair one’s work.
However, these tests do not cover some commonly prescribed drugs such as muscle relaxants and Gabapentin that can greatly undermine work safety. In order to increase work safety, companies can invest in pre-employment drug screenings that tests for all major drug types. This will include prescription drugs that can affect productivity. It is important to note that the more comprehensive drug screenings can pick up drugs that are not detrimental to work safety. Companies should take the results of a drug screening on a case-by-case basis and should not result in the immediate disqualification of a potential employee.
Random Drug Testing
Random drug testing can be an effective strategy for targeting drug-impaired employees. A company’s policy of having random drug testing can also be a natural deterrent to employees beginning drug usage. To initiate a policy of random drug testing, companies first need to establish a written manual for their drug policies. This manual must include stating that the company is a “drug-free zone” and that may include prescription drugs. The manual needs to state that employees will be subject to random drug tests.
In addition, the manual should underline what the procedure is if an employee’s test results come back positive. By explicitly stating a company’s drug policies, employees are not entitled to refuse a random drug tests because they agreed to these policies when signing to work for the company. Similar to pre-employment drug screenings, results of random drug testing should also be taken on a case-by-case basis. Certain drugs that these tests pick up may be prescription drugs that are not negatively impacting an employee’s performance.
Implications of Preventative Drug Policies
Drugs continue to make workplaces unsafe by contributing to accidents that can cost companies thousands of dollars. It can also put drug-free workers at risk of being in a workplace accident. In addition, the loss of productivity from drug-impaired workers can negatively impact a company’s profit. Ultimately, by employing preventative drug policies, companies can ensure that they are operating at maximum safety and productivity.
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