The opioid crisis in your workplace

by | May 31, 2017 | Employee Management, General, OSHA & Safety, Our Blog, Policies | 0 comments

Are you experiencing the effects of the opioid crisis in your workplace? A survey commissioned by the National Safety Council reveals that more than 70% of employers are being impacted by employees’ use of prescription drugs. That said, 80% of the companies surveyed say they do not have comprehensive drug-free workplace policies. More than 3/4 of the companies are not training employees to recognize signs of abuse. And although many companies routinely do pre-employment drug screening,  41% of those who are drug testing all employees do not test for synthetic opioids.

The survey respondents cited incidents relating to prescription drug use, including:

  • Missed work
  • Use of prescription pain relievers at work
  • Positive drug tests
  • Impaired job performance
  • Complaints to HR – reduced workplace morale
  • Near miss or injury
  • Impact on employees’ family members
  • and more

Research by other organizations has said that workplace-based recovery and monitoring programs have had better results for individuals with drug abuse than have programs initiated by friends or family members. Yet only 19% of employers surveyed by the NSC study have said that they feel prepared to deal with prescription drug misuse..

OSHA and drug testing

OSHA standards passed in 2016 sought to have drug testing after workplace accidents when it was suspected that drug use might have been a factor in the accidents. The regulations require employers to “establish a reasonable procedure for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly and accurately,”  At the same time, the OSHA rules state that post-accident drug testing might not be “reasonable if it would deter or discourage a reasonable employee from accurately reporting a workplace injury or illness….” If you have an employee with drug abuse issues you don’t want him or her to be placed in circumstances where there could be a repeat – or worse – incident. The problem for some employers is that the OSHA- required post-accident drug testing might deter individuals from reporting accidents – which creates a violation in the requirement to report.

Some legal counsel has indicated that it is appropriate to differentiate between accidents that have no evidence of a relationship with drug use – like a bee sting- and accidents that might create suspicion of a drug-related cause. “Employers need not specifically suspect drug use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing.”