Inside Post-Accident Drug Testing

drug testing

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, drug and alcohol use at work may contribute to 65% of on-the-job accidents. Substance abuse contributes to 38% to 50% of workers’ compensation claims. On-the-job drug usage also contributes to high rates of absenteeism, decreased productivity, and introduces unnecessary safety risks to all employees. Therefore, implementing a post-accident drug testing (PADT) program is one of the foundational risk management programs employers should implement to help reduce workplace injuries and improve safety and productivity. Employers should develop a PADT policy as part of a holistic Substance Abuse Program. The Program should be provided to all employees upon hire and any time changes are made. PADTs should be conducted consistently and in accordance with the company’s Substance Abuse Program.

10-Panel Testing Provides a Clearer Picture

Traditionally, a five-panel test has been used by employers with a PADT program. This test generally detects five different drugs: cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, PCP, and marijuana. Over time, drug use has changed to include a wider variety of substances, as well as those that are synthetic in nature. The 10-panel screening process tests for the same drugs as the five-panel test, and, while there may be variations among facilities and labs, it generally tests for barbiturates, benzodiazepine (valium), methadone, methaqualone, and propoxyphene.

A 10-panel drug screen enhances the employer’s ability to evaluate the root cause for a workplace incident that harmed or could have harmed employees, especially when the testing occurs within 12 hours of an incident.

Testing for Marijuana in Today’s Landscape

Both recreational and medicinal cannabis are legal in many states while in other states only medical marijuana is legal. In some states, all forms of marijuana are illegal. The use of marijuana could complicate the PADT, particularly in states where recreational and/or medical cannabis is legal. Because marijuana stays in the system for a very long time (detection windows for marijuana could be up to six weeks), a traditional urine-based drug test will not accurately reflect when the drug was taken and subsequently whether it impaired the employee and contributed to the injury. To better detect the timing of marijuana use, an employer can require a saliva-based swab drug test, which is easy for the employee to administer himself/herself and for the employer to observe. A swab test can generally detect marijuana use in the last 24 hours (even within the last hour). Testing accuracy is critical, as it helps an employer in making an employment-related decision (employee assistance, termination, etc.) for those individuals who test positive.

It’s also important to note that in most states, if you receive a positive result from the saliva-based drug test, the results must be sent to a certified laboratory to analyze and provide confirmation of the results. Confirmation of all positive results should be sent to the insurance carrier immediately. If an employee refuses to take the swab test, this should also be communicated to the carrier, which could affect claim compensability.

OSHA’s Position on PADT

In May 2016, OSHA proposed a rule which stated that employers were largely prohibited from conducting PADT on employees who had sustained a workplace injury. OSHA further stated that PADT could be deemed as retaliatory, unless it was clear that the drug test could show actual impairment and the drug usage is likely to have caused the accident. Understandably, many employers were confused about the rule and several industry groups even sued OSHA to delay the proposal from becoming law. The proposed rule contained many contradictory terms and ideas. 

In 2018, OSHA clarified its position, stating they “do not prohibit post-incident drug testing” and that “employers who do so promote workplace safety and health.”  The agency’s clarification basically says that, if administered as part of a root-cause analysis, PADT is completely legal. To illustrate the point further, a very simple question may be asked:  “How does an organization know that any given accident is not directly affected by an employee’s use of drugs?”  The answer is simple: They cannot possibly know unless a PADT is conducted for all parties involved in that accident. For this reason, employers should remain confident that conducting PADT is not only legal, but a requirement of a robust, comprehensive risk management program.

About Prescient National 

Prescient National works with employers to implement PADTs with 10-panel testing along with swab drug testing to help pinpoint the root cause of an accident. As a result of our claims investigations, we have found that 10-panel testing is the most effective approach to take in better understanding what may have contributed to an accident. Our goal is to help our clients reduce injuries in the workplace and foster a culture of safety.

We offer workers’ compensation solutions to employers based on their individual needs, risk-taking appetite, and loss history: guaranteed cost policies small-, midsize-, and large-deductible policies, retrospective rating policies, excess/self-insurance, and captive options. 

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