Every day, far too many Americans are hurt by drug and alcohol use. From diminished achievement in our schools to greater risks on our roads, in our workplaces and in our communities, lives are tragically cut short because of substance abuse. Yet we know that it is preventable.
Maintaining drug-free workplaces has long been the rule in American industry. Never before have employers faced widespread acceptance of behavior that’s at odds with workplace safety.
It’s clear the national trend is in support of marijuana legalization. Currently, 30 states have laws that legalize marijuana in some form, while nine states and Washington, D.C., have adopted expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Thirteen medical marijuana cardholder states are classified as protection states, whose laws defend employees against their employers. Some states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana altogether.
Keeping drugs and impaired employees out of the workplace is the least we can do to protect productive workers who help maintain a successful company. To prevent injuries and accidents from substance abuse, employers must make sure their substance abuse policies are robust and deal with new legislation.
When is the last time your drug and alcohol policy was reviewed and updated? It is encouraged to change the title of your policy to “Safety and Health Policy.” “Safety-sensitive” is something that will help employers deal with marijuana laws. If the job descriptions are updated in your policy and classified as safety- sensitive, it doesn’t matter if the employee has a medical marijuana card or not; they still can’t work in those positions. With the addition of synthetic opioids by DOT in January 2018, employers need to ensure that their policies reflect the updates.
Another way to help maintain a drug-free workplace is to educate your employees about your company’s policies, standards and expectations, including specific information on what types of testing are required and what the protocols and standards are.
Along with educating employees, companies should ensure they are properly training their supervisors. Employers should educate supervisors and managers to recognize the signs of impairment to better ascertain if an employee is under the influence while on the job. It is startling to see how many managers are not up-to-date with the drugs that are emerging and what new methods are being used to sneak paraphernalia into work on an employee’s body.
In one class I conducted, we discussed synthetic urine and how employees are buying and wearing the synthetic urine bottles behind their knees or under their pants. When called for random testing, the employee would activate the pouch with a “hot hands” packet to warm it up to the proper temperature — or so they thought. Most of the time it was still too cold, or the drug testing laboratory couldn’t use it because it lacked uric acid.
Another common practice is using hideaway storage items like highlighters with pipes in them, hair spray cans with hollowed insides, or Aquafina water bottles that look real with water inside, but when twisted, contain a false bottom where you can hide things. Are security guards checking for these items when employees come through their gates at owner sites? Maybe not, if they haven’t been educated that these items exist.
Recently, we have been receiving calls about the state of Oklahoma legalizing medicinal marijuana. One client said, “We have dispensaries opening in October here in Ponca City, Oklahoma. What am I fixing to face?” Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, so federal law does not require employers to accommodate a person’s medical marijuana use.
Most employers have always gone with a blanket “no marijuana” policy provision, but in today’s society and as marijuana becomes recreational and medicinally accepted around the U.S., this is not a good idea. Therefore, employers need to go back and review their drug and alcohol policies or consult with their third-party administrators or labor attorneys for guidance.
For more information, visit www.tangandcompany.com or call (562) 437-0831.