We often use this column to educate readers about occupational health topics that not only highlight our approaches to care, but also to present developing topics regarding the standards of healthcare today. However, the latest post-accident drug-testing ruling from OSHA demonstrates a level of absurdity to which we can only respond by demonstrating it. Our commentary is not directed at local OSHA workers or officials tasked with the enforcement of regulations. Rather, we are questioning policymakers who make decisions based on feelings with no objective supporting data.
To Whom It May Concern:
I woke up a little late this morning after tying one on with my fellow bartenders. To ease this pounding headache, I grabbed my one-hitter and a pinch of my favorite Kush. Headache gone and a pleasant buzz guiding my day, I was tooling around on my forklift playing Candy Crush on my phone when it buzzed with a tweet from my toking buddy, Carl, that said OSHA’s now on my side. I clicked on the link while I was driving toward the dock and my favorite weed website was telling me that I can use my “medicine” at work and my boss can’t test me for it.
I had always limited myself to one or two hits before work and was worried about what would happen if they tested my “water” bottle that I keep on the forklift. But hey, a man’s gotta work and I’m a good driver. Carl got a nice settlement when I dropped that pallet on his foot on a “sober” day. Now, OSHA is telling my boss that he better be damn certain that I’m intoxicated before testing me the next time I knock down a shelving system or accidentally crush Carl as I drive off the end of the dock. After all, my personal life is not on trial at work.
Thank you, OSHA, for protecting my rights to privacy.
Work is hard, man. If the boss needs a bottle in his desk, why should I worry about the flask in my coat? Everyone needs a quick hit occasionally. Sometimes you need a little pick-me-up to stay awake during those stupid “proactive” safety presentations we’re required to sit through so that I’m not afraid to report a work injury. On the other hand, we usually get pizza at those meetings and I’m kinda hungry right now. Why should I have to wait for a party celebrating no work injuries for six months?
In conclusion, thank you OSHA for making my job and life a bit easier. I can tell my boss that if he tries to test me, I’ll be calling a lawyer right after I pick one from the TV.
If you think we’re being a bit absurd, you should be questioning the logic—or lack thereof—of the policymakers at a federal agency tasked with promoting employee safety. It’s a demonstrated fact that intoxication in some form is a frequent contributor to workplace injuries. The new policy suggests that injured workers may not report injuries if they fear that illegal substances will be found in their system.
Of course, some injuries are not reported because of this, but the only people this new policy helps, notwithstanding the drug-using employee, are the statisticians at OSHA who will have larger numbers to justify their continued employment. An obvious unintended consequence, namely decreased worker safety, is already being challenged in court. Blanket, non-targeting policies regarding drug and alcohol testing are foundational to many workplace safety programs, along with human resources policies and procedures for dealing with positive tests. The only ones who can escape a positive drug screen is the drug user who reports an injury in an “untimely manner,” which we have begun encountering in our clinics. Such behaviors also need personnel policies’ consequences.
Notification of post-injury/accident policies regarding drugs and alcohol are, in fact, proactive safety programs without incentives. OSHA does not want reactive “pizza party” safety programs for prolonged safety records. Employers are faced with more than enough nuanced regulations than to have the burden of retroactively determining if someone is “intoxicated” (and all of its legal consequences) after an incident rather than relying on a blanket decision to drug-test. The new ruling flies in the face of logic, is detrimental to workplace safety and insults the “clean” worker. Ultimately, it only serves to enrich the insurers who will raise premiums to “mitigate their own risks because of drunk and drugged workplaces.” iBi