Three Points to Know About Post-Accident Drug Testing at Your Workplace

Working with employees who may have substance abuse problems can be perplexing for an organization. They often deal with issues ranging from lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft and low employee morale, and rise in medical expenses, legal liabilities and workers’ compensation costs. American companies lose billions of dollars every year because of employees’ alcohol and drug use, and related problems.

According to the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance (NDWA), more than 74 percent of all current illegal drug users and more than 74 percent of heavy alcohol users are employed in organizations in America. And up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities in the country can be linked to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

In December 2016, there was a drastic change in the drug testing policy in America, both federally and locally. As per the OSHA 29 CFR 1904, the new regulations prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses. Employers, employees, and job applicants need to be aware of the changes applicable to workplace drug testing procedures post accidents and before hiring.

Read on to know about the three key aspects (old and new) that you should know about post-accident drug testing at the workplace.

1. Impact on Employers and Employees
OSHA's new rules on reporting of workplace injuries requires employers to implement a reasonable procedure for employees to be able to do so. Further, it does not prohibit drug testing of employees but disallows employers from using drug testing or the threat of drug testing as a form of retaliation against employees who report injuries or illnesses due to carelessness from substance use.

Companies that continue with post-accident drug testing need to provide a reasonable reason to suspect an employee based on information from employee records that mention prior workplace injury or illness.

Here are five key points from the new rules that an organization must focus on:

  • Employers ought to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without the fear of retaliation.
  • A reasonable basis is required for employers to perform a post-accident drug test.
  • The rule does not apply to drug-testing employees for reasons other than injury reporting.
  • Employers need to continue with the task of completing, retaining, and certifying injury and illness records. It only requires certain employers to electronically submit certain records to OSHA.
  • Three reasons of retaliation are required by OSHA to prove a violation of the revised rule, including a protected report of an injury or illness, an adverse action, and a causation.

2. Written Substance Abuse Policy
Employers planning to establish a written substance abuse policy need to inform the employees why the workplace is aiming to adopt a drug-free policy.

Recognizing an alcohol/drug problem early can make it easier to avoid workplace accidents and subsequently test employees for post-accident drug testing. Supervisors must document employee behaviors that demonstrate a possible alcohol/drug problem. With adequate training, they should be able to handle processes related to post-accident and random drug testing for employees, without retaliation.

Implementation and compliance schedule of the new reporting requirements will be phased in over two years. Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the record-keeping regulation must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017. They are required to submit information from all 2017 forms by July 1, 2018.

On the other hand, companies/business operations with 20-249 employees in some of the high-risk industries must submit the said information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1, 2018. From 2019, both categories of organizations must submit the information electronically to the OSHA by March 2.

3. Critical Steps for Employers Regarding the Revised Rule
Compared to their peers, employees who use drugs/alcohol are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and are also more likely to incur significantly higher medical expenses. Post-accident drug tests are dreaded by such employees and they fear reporting illnesses or injuries.

In several American states, the law disqualifies employees who are drug/alcohol users from receiving workers’ compensation and health benefits that can be claimed after a workplace accident. This becomes a significant source of savings for employers.

With the revised rules announced by the OSHA, employers need to update their Written Substance Abuse Policy to reduce the expenses that they can incur from accidents. These include:

a) Review Your Drug-Free Workplace Policy: Make sure your Written Substance Abuse Policy or the Workplace Drug & Alcohol Testing Policy distinctly defines the circumstances under which the post-accident testing will be conducted. Replace general testing provisions with a list of specific criteria. All post-accident policies should be reviewed and updated to ensure that the language is not retaliatory and does not deter or discourage the reporting of illnesses or injuries.

b) Review Your Policy Based on the State Laws: State laws need to be adhered to when an employer drafts his/her company's policies, especially those related to enforcement of post-accident or post-injury drug testing. Laws for a drug-free workplace and worker's compensation will remain unchanged. Further, companies won't be accused of violating OSHA rules if post-accident testing is conducted after reasonable suspicion.

c) Re-Train Staff: Supervisors need to be inducted into the revised rules announced by the OSHA. These training programs need to include aspects like building reasonable suspicion drug testing post workplace accidents.

Undergoing post-accident drug testing can be embarrassing for employees involved in a workplace accident. Drug testing at the workplace can be beneficial in identifying employees who are using drugs, and in offering them help. This can even clarify the misconception that drug use leads to termination from the job. Numerous businesses have Employee Assistance Programs to help their employees combat this habit by arranging for rehabilitation.

Nicole Kolly is a digital content manager at TestCountry. She is involved in drug addiction support groups for recovering addicts and their families. She is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and helping others do so as well. When she isn't working, she enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking for friends and family.

Posted on Apr 06, 2017

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