Last updated: February 24, 2020
A catastrophic injury in the workplace is a major concern for employers. When the word “catastrophic” links with “accident,” many things spring to mind. Head injuries, spinal cord injuries, burn injuries, and multiple trauma injuries all fall in the category. Sometimes death is a result as well. All of them require a catastrophic claim drug test.
Employers strive to provide a safe working environment. However, drugs in the workplace cost employers more than $740 billion a year. A portion of that figure relates to workplace accidents.
Legalization is a cause for concern
In states that have legalized the drug, the number of employees testing positive for marijuana has increased by 7%. That number is expected to rise as legalization continues to spread. Therefore, it’s expected that accidents, injuries, and absenteeism will increase as well.
According to the National Institue on Drug Abuse, those who tested positive for marijuana had 55% more industrial accidents than employees who test negative. That’s a pretty substantial difference. The comparison continued with pot smokers sustaining 85% more job-related injuries than their sober co-workers. Lastly, they called in sick 75% more often than employees testing negative for marijuana.
That is not acceptable.
The first step after any accident is to see that the injured employee receives medical treatment immediately. Next, secure the scene until completing an investigation. This keeps evidence intact. Examiners will be more likely to determine the exact cause.
An employer faced with a catastrophic workers’ comp claim faces devastating financial loss. Not to mention the damage to the company’s reputation. We all know that bad news travels fast. Therefore, it’s important that the cause of the accident be determined as soon as possible.
Most drug-free workplace policies include post-accident testing. Workers’ comp programs require them too.
The outcome of a drug test helps determine who or what caused the accident. Moreover, a positive drug test result affects the amount the employee receives from workers’ compensation. It may, in fact, be nothing. Although, proving the employee was impaired at the time of the accident comes into play.
All catastrophic workers’ comp claims are the result of an accident. However, not all post-accident claims classify as catastrophic by any means. Thankfully, only 1% of workers’ compensation claims fall in the catastrophic claim range.
The payout, however, accounts for a huge percentage of the total amount of workers’ compensation awarded to employees. In fact, these accidents account for 20% of annual losses. Medical costs continue to rise. It is very difficult for claim managers to determine the cost of a life-changing injury.
Employers that implement post-accident drug testing do so to help determine the cause of an accident. This is definitely true in the case of safety-sensitive employers. They must adhere to DOT zero-tolerance regulations. Regardless if it happens in the general or safety-sensitive workforce, an employee involved in a workplace accident that tests positive for drugs is usually terminated.
In the event of a catastrophic accident, time is of the essence. Drug tests are a useful tool. Urine tests detect the drug metabolites left in the system. The results are accurate, nevertheless, it can be difficult to determine impairment at a specific time.
Blood tests are unique. They detect the presence of the parent drug in the bloodstream rather than the drug metabolites that remain in the system after the fact. In other words, it’s possible to determine recent drug use.
That is extremely valuable information.
However, the detection window is only a matter of hours. Obtaining a specimen for testing as soon after the accident as possible is key. Moreover, most hospitals require two court orders before they release a specimen. The first order releases the specimen. The second court order releases the specimen to the collector.
If the collector can’t gain access and the detection period is nearing its end, your lawyer will request a preservation order. The hospital will supply the specimen from its initial draw.
Hospitals don’t test every accident victim for drugs. Additionally, they dispose of samples collected after a few days.
Remember, time is of the essence. Notify your insurance company immediately. They will start the claim process. The first step is to obtain the necessary release forms. The insurance company should also send a preservation letter to preserve blood and urine specimens collected upon admission. Some hospitals discard their specimens 48 hours after collecting them.
Make sure the drug testing company has access to the employee’s identifying information, such as name, social security number, date of birth, and date of injury. Also, inform them of any necessary pick-up information.
If there are known time constraints or deadlines, make the drug testing company aware of the fact immediately. If a lawyer is involved provide contact information for them as well.
Your drug testing company will return the results as soon as possible.
It takes several days to receive a positive blood test result.
There’s no turning back time
We can’t turn back the clock to avoid a catastrophic accident. Even so, there are things you can do to lessen the chance that one ever occurs.
Employers who operate a drug-free workplace do so to provide the safest possible working environment. It is a great deterrent. If they know there’s a chance of a drug test, many employees decide that it’s just not worth the risk.
Companies that promote a drug-free workplace see a reduction in workplace accidents. They also get lower rates for workers’ compensation insurance.
It’s a form of risk management for many employers. For instance, management teams and supervisors are trained to recognize reasonable suspicion. They are enabled to handle a report of suspected drug use confidently.
Periodic training sessions for employees gives them the knowledge to make informed decisions. It could even be a catalyst for someone to seek help.
Remind them that drug use in the workplace is dangerous for everyone. Let your workers know that you expect them to speak up if they suspect a problem in the workplace. They will know they have a voice. That is empowering.
Empowerment creates a sense of unity.
Everyone has the right to a drug-free workplace. Employees who use drugs put others in harm’s way. We have to weed them out.