legalized impairment coverPresenters: Jerry Bach, Vice President of Workplace Safety at Safety Center Inc. & Jeff Hastings, President/CEO of ARCpoint Labs

Topic: Legalized Impairment (as a direct result of marijuana use) and what employers can do about it

On Thursday August 6 at 8:30am, Safety Center hosted its monthly Safety Forum on the topic of “Legalized Impairment” to address the potential legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of California, and how it could affect safety in the workplace.  During this month’s forum, Safety Center’s own Jerry Bach led an informational presentation with Jeff Hastings (CEO/President of ARCpoint Labs) on this timely and controversial topic.  27 safety professionals participated in a lively discussion regarding the rights of employers to implement and maintain a drug-free workplace.

The presentation summary is as follows:

Legalized Impairment?

  • November 6, 2012: Colorado & Washington state legalized marijuana for “recreational” purposes
  • 5 more states are on the verge of following suit: California, Nevada, Illinois, Vermont, and New York state
  • Marijuana use has been found to have a direct impact on SAFETY and productivity in the workplace
    • According to Hastings, there is no science to prove marijuana’s medicinal value
      • 3-5x more carcinogenic content in marijuana than cigarettes
      • IQ decreases on average 8 points from heavy use
  • Short-term effects of marijuana use:
    • Altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
    • Altered sense of time
    • Changes in mood
    • Impaired body movement
    • Difficulty thinking & problem-solving
    • Impaired memory
  • Long-term effects of marijuana use:
    • Affects brain development
    • When started in teen years, may reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions
    • Effects can be permanent
  • Increased THC content in 21st-century marijuana than ever before
  • “Acute intoxication with marijuana interferes with many aspects of mental functioning and has serious, acute effects on perception and skilled performance, such as driving and other complex tasks involving judgement or fine motor skills” (Dept. of Health & Human Services)
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that studies suggest specific links between marijuana use and adverse consequences in the workplace: Postal Worker Study
    • Findings of Postal Worker Study: employees who tested positive (compared with those who tested negative) for marijuana use on a pre-employment urine drug test had:
      • 55% more industrial accidents
      • 85% more injuries
      • 75% greater absenteeism

What Can Employers Do?

  • Remember, laws that legalize marijuana use do not eliminate your right as an employer to maintain a drug-free workplace
    • Employers still have the right to insist that workers not be under the influence of marijuana while at work
    • Written policy that directly addresses marijuana use by employees is a key component in any drug-free workplace program
    • Training is also available for identifying & handling marijuana impairment on the job
  • Drug-Free Workplace Policy (be sure to review your drug-use & drug-testing policy)
    • Ensure that they clearly explain your expectations regarding impairment, marijuana use outside of company time & drug testing
    • Review your state’s laws on discrimination against marijuana users.  Make sure your policies are consistent with state anti-discrimination statutes
    • Continue to comply with current federal regulations–as of now:
      • For safety-sensitive positions, random drug-testing is OK
      • For NON-safety-sensitive positions, random drug-testing is NOT OK
      • Pre-Employment Testing for EVERYONE is OK
  • Keep in mind: Federal regulations still prohibit marijuana use
    • Several classes of federal employees must undergo regular testing for marijuana
      • For example, the Dept. of Transportation has issued guidance for its Drug & Alcohol Testing Regulations, stating that:
        • “it remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Dept. of Transportation’s regulations to use marijuana”

Bottom line: Impairment (legalized or not) is unsafe for the workplace

For more information on this topic, here‘s a past presentation designed by Jeff Hastings with additional resources.

Join us in September for our next Safety Forum with the topic Workplace Violence (Thursday, September 6 at 8:30am)

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