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OSHA’s New Final Rule Governs Post-Accident Drug Testing

Occupational Health

post accident drug testing, OSHA, OSHA guidelines

Changes to OSHA’s laws regarding post-accident drug testing may impact your current corporate drug and alcohol testing policy. Many companies ask for a drug and alcohol test after any workplace accident to rule out substance abuse as a possible cause. However, OSHA’s new guidelines restrict when you should conduct substance testing after an accident to prevent unfair retribution against employees who may be afraid to report the incident.

Understanding OSHA’s Section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv)

Section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv) explains when you can test workers for drugs and alcohol after an accident. OSHA clarifies that your company must have a valid reason to believe that drugs or alcohol could have been a contributing factor in the accident. Testing should also be able to detect a current impairment and not just be able to detect whether or not the worker used drugs or alcohol in the past.

For accidents where impairment could not be a possible factor, your company should avoid drug testing. Drug testing under these circumstances could be used punitively to deter workers from reporting an accident to OSHA. Your workers may also feel that invading their privacy via drug and alcohol testing is unfair after they’ve been the victim of a workplace accident.

OSHA Post-Accident Drug-and-Alcohol-Testing Examples

While the cause of some workplace accidents may be difficult to determine, some accidents have a clear cause that requires little investigation. Other accidents occur due to an avoidable employee error. When determining whether you should post-accident test, you should try to determine if the worker’s lack of judgment or slow motor skills could have contributed to the accident. If an uncommon worker error could have caused the incident, testing for drug or alcohol impairment may be reasonable.

When a post-accident drug test may be necessary:

  • A worker is driving a forklift erratically and drops a box on another employee’s foot.
  • A employee skips following safety procedures and becomes injured when operating a common piece of equipment.
  • A worker crashes a company car into a tree while delivering a product.

When your company should rethink a post-accident test:

  • A employee slips and falls on some oil that spilled on the floor.
  • A worker is hit in the head by a box that falls off a shelf, and he is knocked unconscious.
  • A employee hurts his shoulder when he’s moving a piece of equipment.

Changing Your Corporate Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy

This change, and OSHA rules may affect your current drug policy, but these federal guidelines aren’t the only thing that should influence your policy. Five states have eliminated legal post-accident drug testing, which should also be reflected in your corporate policy if you do business in those states.
When you alter your drug and alcohol policy to follow the new OSHA regulations, be sure to notify your employees of the change. Also, make sure that all new and current employees know the content of your testing policies so they can easily abide your corporate policies.

As court cases and OSHA rulings continue to refine drug testing guidelines, it can be difficult to draft a valid corporate drug and alcohol policy. To make sure you have a legal policy that will serve the specific needs of your company, consider hiring Origin’s knowledgeable staff to write a tailored, up-to-date policy. Origin can also be the third-party administrator ready to implement your corporate policy and make sure that the entire testing process is conducted safely and in compliance with state and federal laws.

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