However, the quote seems to be saying if a person is taking a legal prescription drug(s), albeit those possibly causing impairment leading to an accident in the workplace, such legal use qualifies as “prescription drug abuse.” (WCxKit)
It is a fine line between maintaining a drug-free workplace understood to mean illegal drug usage and firing someone for taking prescription drugs – some even for injuries sustained in the employer’s workplace.
Statistics show (Quest Diagnostics) of 500,000 drug tests, use of prescription drugs rose 18% between 2005 and 2009. Opiates were found in those workers following an accident at four times the level than when they were first hired.
That being said, a leap cannot be made from high usage of prescription drugs to abusive usage of prescription drugs. Some people abuse. Others take their medications appropriately and, yes, the drug is found in their system at testing.
The real questions are: Are workers taking legal prescription drugs showing evidence of behavior as a result of their medication(s) putting them at a higher risk of a workplace injury? Are workers taking prescription medication actually having more injuries? In other words, is there a quid pro quo?
Employers must continue to test for drugs in the workplace. In addition to the drug-free policy, they must implement a plan for working with those taking prescription drugs and evaluate each individual on the basis of what is found during the test and the behavior of the worker, taking steps to intervene if unsafe behaviors or potential for accidents are found.
The drug-testing plan needs openness and communication with employees taking RX meds. A policy must be set as to what will be tolerated within the guidelines of the prescription dosages. Employees must also be open and honest about medications they take — opiates or not — at the time of drug testing. It’s common knowledge diabetics may experience inconsistent affects from both their disease and the medication they take, even when taken correctly. No employer would be allowed to fire a diabetic if deemed at risk for an injury. They would be required to accommodate.
Someone taking two Vicodin twice a day, morning and evening, would be expected to have a fixed level of the drug in his/her body. If at testing a person is found to have much high amounts, that’s the time for the employer to step in.
Steps an employer may consider are counseling, re-assigning the person to a safer job, working with employees and their physicians to substitute or alter the dosage during the workday. Check the laws in your state and the regulations of the American with Disabilities Act. (WCxKit)
It’s much wiser for employers to be on a sure footing before firing workers who “fail” drug tests for taking legitimate medications than to fight a lawsuit. Indeed, if lower worker comp costs are the goal, lawsuits blow cost right up the scale, big time.
For more information visit: http://reduceyourworkerscomp.com/drug-testing-state-laws.php#axzz14LwH8dOJ
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.
Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.