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What employers need to know about impairment vs. under the influence

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Drug abuse can have a direct impact on workplace safety. When creating a workplace drug testing policy, it is very important for employers to understand the difference between impairment and under the influence. These terms are often used interchangeably but they each have very different meanings.

Drug abuse can manifest itself in different ways in the workplace.  It can negatively affect job performance, productivity, absenteeism, and more.  But drug use and abuse in the workplace can go further than just losing employee productivity. 

  • 38-50% of all workers’ compensation claims are related to workplace substance abuse. Further, drug-abusing workers filed 3-5 times more workers’ compensation claims as to their non-using co-workers.

  • Substance abusers incur 300% higher medical costs than non-substance abusers.

  • Substance abusers are 2.5 times more likely to be absent eight or more days a year.

  • Substance abusers are 33% less productive than their non-using co-workers. 

It's important to recognize the signs of drug abuse in your employees and create a program that will legally and safely keep your employees from impairment in the workplace. 

What is the difference between impairment and under the influence? 

In the workplace, we want to treat these two terms differently.  They are often used interchangeably but they each have very different meanings. 

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  • Impairment: a legal term defined by law

  • Under the Influence: a policy term defined by the employer

From a policy perspective, and as the employer, you want to treat under the influence and impairment differently.  The two terms are very distinct, so they should be treated differently.  

In almost every state, .08 or higher blood alcohol level is considered “legally impaired”.  In your company policy, you should avoid using the word impaired because you can’t prove that they are legally impaired.  A drug test cannot prove this, so if in your policy, you are prohibiting individuals from being at work “while impaired” you’re faced with the task of being able to prove it. In order to avoid the possibility of being challenged, your policy should lean toward and define the term “under the influence”.

Protecting Against Impairment in the Workplace

drug-testing-formDrug abuse, regardless of drug, presents problems in the workplace, including prescription drug abuse.  Employers have expressed concerns of drug abuse to their workplace environment and costs that will ultimately fall into the hands of employers. 

The use of controlled substances have steadily increased since 2018. Whether it be alcohol, prescription drugs, or marijuana, the use and abuse of drugs in the workplace have an exponential cost on an employer. 

Ensure that your drug testing policy is up to par and includes a program equipped with policy, training, testing, and consequences. 

Contact Orange Tree to help create a drug testing policy that is effective in an age of ambiguity.