Last updated: February 24, 2020
While you may hear how numerous states rake money in hand-over-fist from revenue generated from legal marijuana sales, sometimes in the neighborhood of tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars each year, you don’t need to smoke it to imagine how this has an adverse effect on safety. Just think of employees in public sectors who operate vehicles, or work in accident-prone positions. The truth is all states that have legalized the drug have shown a rampant increase in use. All of this poses real concerns for employers, not only in regards to safety and liability, but also in how to best implement a drug testing program under ever-changing laws and perception towards drugs and drug use.
Drug abuse and safety
It’s well known that marijuana impairs judgement, slows reaction time, increases anxiety, and even leads to paranoia. That’s not all, though. It also decreases an employees’ productivity, and has a profound impact on hand-eye coordination and cognitive skills. Marijuana use has also been known to accelerate the heartbeat, increase depression, and in some cases, even lead to withdrawal. What’s more, any of these symptoms can cause enough of a distraction, or impair an employee’s concentration, resulting in workplace injury, which opens a business to liability, or in a worse case scenario, leads to death.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s reported that drug and alcohol abuse causes 65 percent of job-related accidents, and 38 to 50 percent of all workers compensation claims, are related to drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.
In 2016 an Amtrak engineer was involved in a crash that killed two maintenance workers on a rail bed south of Philadelphia. The National Transportation Safety Board said the driver tested positive for Marijuana. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated incident. Identifying an alarming increase in drug use by railroad workers, the Federal Railroad Administration reports that nearly 5 percent of workers involved in accidents in 2016 tested positive for illegal drugs.It’s not just in the workplace, either. Where alcohol-related incidents was once the leading cause of car accidents, drug use has surpassed drunk-driving in fatal car crashes. This is supported by multiple sources, including the The Denver Post, The Washington Post , and The Hill.
What employers should do
A comprehensive drug testing program has been shown to provide a powerful deterrent to employee drug use. How is that? Knowing that they may be caught and lose their job at any time, employees are less likely to use drugs. The fact is, employers who drug test their employees are also sending a clear message they care about their employees. This has a positive impact on productivity and workplace morale.
The Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), along with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), conducted a survey that included a number of human resource professionals, and together they reported that companies with that have high workers’ compensation incidence rates dropped from 14 percent to 6 percent after proper drug screening and drug testing programs were implemented, which was an improvement of 57 percent overall.
Their conclusion is that comprehensive drug testing, employee education and supervisor training, and promoting a drug-free workplace generally speaking can contribute to improve safety, while reducing OSHA recordable injuries and workers’ compensation claims.
When all of this is done correctly, you will have a successful program that benefits employers and employees alike.