OSHA and Post-Accident Drug Testing

The Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was created to enhance safety and health within the workplace. Unfortunately, they have gotten off-track and are now trying to use their regulatory powers to penalize employers for implementing programs that foster safety within the workplace.

Case in point… OSHA’s latest intrusion on employer’s post-accident drug and alcohol testing programs. In their infinite wisdom (not backup by any real world experience of course), they have decided that post-accident drug/alcohol testing somehow deters employees from reporting on-the-job injuries.

Forget the fact that comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol testing programs improve the safety culture and performance within a company.

Forget the fact that another federal agency,  SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration), has reported that 70% of all drug users are employed, that they are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident and 5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim than non-users. Yes, forget all the facts regarding the safety benefits (especially to the individual worker) of workplace drug and alcohol testing programs and instead regulate quality employers based on the baseless perceptions and beliefs of bureaucrats. No facts allowed!

The good news is that there are some organizations that have the guts to stand up to the federal government. In this case, it was the AGC (Associated General Contractors), who took OSHA to task and got them to back off some of their ridiculous guidance on recordkeeping and reporting rules. Although OSHA has tempered its stance on this issue, don’t think this issue is behind us.

Keep in mind:

  • Make sure your Workplace Drug & Alcohol Testing policy and program clearly defines the circumstances when post-accident testing will be conducted. You can’t have a broad or general testing provision, you must have specific criteria.
  • Don’t deviate from your policy and program provisions when conducting post-accident testing.
  • If there are multiple employees involved in an accident, be sure to test all of them.
  • OSHA says it will not issue citations under the rule for post-incident drug testing conducted in accordance with state workers’ compensation laws—whether drug testing under the law is mandatory or voluntary.

OSHA notes that drug testing employees whose injury could not possibly have arisen from any particular incident, like muscular skeletal disorders (e.g., tendonitis), would likely violate the rule and may result in the employer being cited.

Hopefully this really bad idea will just fade away, and OSHA will get out of employer’s way in making their workplaces safer for all employees.

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