Understanding Impairment in the Workplace

Impairment is a term that is often misunderstood in the workplace. It refers to the state of being unable to perform a task or activity as a result of a mental or physical condition. Many people associate impairment with alcohol or drug use; however, it can result from various other factors, such as sleep deprivation or medical conditions. As an employer or a transportation company, it is crucial to ensure that your employees are not impaired on the job. In this blog, we will explore the meaning of impairment, the different types of impairment, and how to avoid impairment in the workplace.

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Financial Hits?

In addition to the human cost of impaired job performance, there are also obvious financial costs for employers too. Impaired employees may be less productive, may cause more accidents, or other issues that can lead to increased costs. They may also be more likely to take sick days or miss work entirely. These financial impacts reinforce the importance of a comprehensive approach to managing impairment in the workplace.

What is Impairment?

As mentioned earlier, impairment refers to the inability to perform a task or activity due to a condition that affects physical or mental abilities. Impairment can result from various causes such as substance use, sleep deprivation, and medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, and visual or hearing impairments. Understanding the various causes of impairment is vital for creating a safe and healthy work environment.

Can Drugs and Alcohol Impair You?

Drug and alcohol use is one of the most well-known causes of impairment. Substance abuse can affect an individual’s cognitive functions, perception, and motor skills. It can be difficult to detect drug or alcohol use in employees, especially if they are addicted to particular substances. Therefore, it is essential to conduct drug and alcohol testing regularly to ensure that employees are not coming to work impaired or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Why is catching impairment important?

As an employer, ensuring the health and safety of your workforce is of paramount importance. A key aspect of this is assessing what medical conditions can impair your employees’ job performance. A work environment can be impaired by a wide variety of medical conditions, ranging from relatively mild issues such as fatigue to more severe conditions like substance addiction. In this blog, we take a deep dive into the issue of impairment in the workplace, exploring its effects, causes, and prevention.  Impairment and its effects on the workplace can manifest themselves in several ways. Short-term effects might include the inability to perform tasks, have reduced accuracy, and lowered productivity levels whereas more long-term effects can result in absenteeism from work or potential workplace accidents. There are a variety of medical conditions that can give rise to these effects. One potential cause of impairment is substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol misuse are perhaps the most common and easily understood causes of impaired job performance. Even legal prescription drugs taken in the right circumstances can impair work, causing drowsiness or other symptoms.

Can other Issues than drug and alcohol cause impairment?

Fatigue and Sleep deprivation go hand in hand.  Fatigue is another medical condition that can lead to impaired performance in the workplace. There is an array of causes for fatigue, ranging from sleep apnea to poor work-life balance. Whatever the cause, the effects can be significant and may even be life-threatening in certain circumstances – for example, during driving. It is vital for employers to identify fatigue early and take action to prevent it from escalating.

Can Depression and Anxiety cause impairment?

Certain mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can also give rise to impaired job performance. While mental health struggles have become more openly discussed in recent years, the issue of how they can impact employees’ job performance and the work environment often remains under-addressed.

Top Priority

Preventing impairment in the workplace must be an employer’s top priority. Various strategies can be utilized to prevent impairment such as adopting a culture that explicitly emphasizes wellness and safety. Employers can experiment with supplying a wider variety of healthy foods, creating exercise initiatives, and offering employee assistance programs. Employers should also recognize the vital role that leaders can play in modeling healthy behaviors – leaders who prioritize their own wellness and encourage practices like breaks and time off can have a powerful impact on the whole organization.

Can Physicals Help Medical Impairment?

There are also various policies and procedures that can help address medical impairment in the workplace. Regular physical and mental health check-ins by a doctor or mental health expert can help to identify any early indications of impairment, allowing for early intervention. Employers could also consider workplace-specific safety measures – for instance, installing safety equipment or implementing safety procedures. Employers should never shy away from ending employment of an employee whose considered to cause a significant safety risk once they have established the facts of the impairment and provided due process.

We hope you enjoyed our brief discussion on impairment.  Please see other helpful information below for DOT Drug Testing FAQ.

Medical Review Officer (MRO)

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a licensed physician responsible for reviewing drug and alcohol test results. An MRO is trained to identify various types of prescription drugs and medical issues that may cause a false-positive result. MROs can also provide expert advice in case an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol.

FMCSA Clearinghouse

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse is a secure website that provides real-time information about commercial drivers’ drug and alcohol violations. It is a valuable resource for transportation companies and employers who hire commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. The Clearinghouse allows you to check an employee’s drug and alcohol test results before hiring them or assigning them duties that require a commercial driver’s license.  It was founded in January 2020 and now employers no longer need to request drug and alcohol violation information from former employers since there is now 3 years of drug and alcohol violations in the Clearinghouse FMCSA.  It should be know that employers that employ FMCSA employees need to perform a pre-employment query before e they begin safety sensitive duties and an annual query for all drivers on the roster.

DOT Random Consortium

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires employers to participate in the DOT Random Consortium program. The program aims to ensure that employers conduct regular drug and alcohol testing on their employees. Employers must randomly select employees for testing, depending on the size of their workforce. Employers who fail to participate in the program are liable for hefty fines and other legal consequences.

DOT Supervisor Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training

The DOT requires all supervisors to undergo drug and alcohol awareness training. The training aims to ensure that supervisors can recognize signs of impairment in their employees. It also equips supervisors with the necessary skills to handle drug and alcohol-related incidents in the workplace.  This is a DOT mandate as well will help you spot impairment in the workplace.

DOT Physical

The DOT Physical is a thorough medical examination to determine an individual’s fitness to operate a CMV. During the examination, a medical examiner checks an individual’s medical history, vision, hearing, cardiovascular health, and any medications they are taking. If an individual is deemed unfit to operate a CMV, they will not receive a Commercial Driver’s License.

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Nondot Physical

A Nondot Physical is a medical examination that is not related to operating a CMV. The examination aims to determine an individual’s overall health. It is essential to conduct Nondot Physical for employees who are not eligible for DOT Physical to assess any underlying health conditions that may cause impairment.  NonDOT Physicals can help manage impairment brought on by known or unknown medical conditions.  The recipient can gain knowledge on how to manage medical conditions.

NONDOT Drug Screen

Non-DOT Drug screen is a drug test that is not regulated by the Department of Transportation. Employers can conduct Non-DOT drug screens or non-reg drug screens to test employees who are not covered under DOT regulations. Non-DOT drug screens can help prevent illicit drug use among employees and ensure that the work environment is safe.

In conclusion, impairment is a health and safety concern that every employer and transportation company should take seriously. Drug and alcohol abuse is not the only cause of impairment in the workplace. Various factors such as medical conditions, sleep deprivation, and stress can also impair employees’ performance on the job. It is necessary to have policies and procedures in place to address these issues and create a work environment that is safe and healthy. As an employer or transportation company, it is your responsibility to ensure that your employees are not impaired while on duty. Regular drug and alcohol testing, FMCSA Clearinghouse, and DOT Physical are some of the tools that can help you achieve this goal. It is essential to ensure that all employees understand the importance of being alert and in good health at work.

Need to order a Drug Test, Physical or other service?  Contact our knowledgeable Support Staff today at 844-573-8378 or support@workplacescreening.com

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