Some workplace safety and health programs may overlook impairment. One reason: People are of the mindset that nobody would work impaired. When they hear incidents of drug impairment have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, they express shock and concern. They wonder: How is that possible? Why is this occurring? How could this affect my company?
Here is how: An employee may use stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. Some use depressants, such as opioid painkillers Vicodin and codeine. All of these substances can impact safety, the individual’s workplace performance and ability to drive. When that happens, employers can experience productivity losses and exposure to liability, and they may incur crash costs.
Experts point to several factors that have contributed to recent spikes in opioid overdoses:
- High levels of anxiety and stress
- Fear of virus exposure while seeking medical treatment
- Disruption in public outreach and safety campaigns
- Cuts in funding due to financial constraints
How can these obstacles be overcome to provide a safe work environment for all employees? One tool: Make plans to attend free Drug Impairment Training for Texas Employers. Our three 90-minute “Deep Dive” sessions explore the effects of opioids and other narcotic analgesics, cannabis and polydrugs, and how to mitigate risk through random testing of employees working in safety-sensitive positions.
Take action. Register for an upcoming session now:
- Thursday, Oct. 22 (9-10:30 a.m.): Opioids and CNS Depressants/Stimulants: A DITTE Deep Dive
- Wednesday, Nov. 18 (10-11:30 a.m.): Cannabis, HR and Polydrugs: A DITTE Deep Dive.
People have turned to “coping” mechanisms during the pandemic, and that includes the use of alcohol and other drugs. Employers can help curb instances of misuse by providing resources and services. More importantly, they can demonstrate an understanding of the physical and emotional strains tugging on the shirtsleeves of so many in this environment. This can be accomplished by understanding workplace impairment.
Let’s work together for a safer workplace.
Always Keep Safety on Your Radar
Recently, in a 30-minute span, two motorists traveling in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 35 near Dallas were pulled over for speeding. One was clocked at 104-mph, the other at 97-mph. Both drivers were said to be zig-zagging around traffic during daylight hours, their reckless behavior putting the safety of everyone on the road at risk.
I wanted to share this story as a personal reminder that our highways are not raceways. Speed limits are set for a reason – to balance road safety concerns with the effect on travel time and mobility. One of the most disturbing transportation safety trends during the COVID-19 pandemic is that while the total number of deaths has fallen year over year, the death rate has skyrocketed. The rate of death on the roads was 23% higher in May 2020 compared to the same month last year, meaning more people are losing their lives for every mile driven. This is due in no small part to speeding and reckless driving. Speeding increases the force of impact and the risk of severe injuries and fatalities in crashes.
I’m sure you and your employees have a number of eye-opening stories you’ve witnessed firsthand during your travels. Many of us have been impacted by a crash event. Some have experienced the tragic loss of a co-worker. All of us can and should follow the rules of the road, for safety.
Equip employees to take ownership of their driving behaviors by providing ongoing education and training opportunities. Encourage them to participate in safety discussions. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Am I speeding? Why?
- When I leave the house, do I allow myself enough time to make it to work or am I pushing it so I won’t be late?
- What kind of example am I setting?
- Do I think about how my actions might impact co-workers, friends or family members?
- Can I afford a ticket or a crash repair bill?
Some organizations use technology to regulate speed on company vehicles. Speed bumps, roundabouts and other engineering solutions can slow traffic down, too. But, for the most part, personal vehicles are regulated by personal choices. Today’s advanced driver assistance systems are meant to do just that, assist drivers, not replace them. You still are your vehicle’s best safety feature.
Use these free resources to boost your educational efforts:
- Share this video: Stick with Your To-Do List
- See Something, Say Something: Speak Up if the Driver is Doing Something Dangerous
- Mindfulness: When behind the wheel, are you fully aware of where you are and what you are doing?
- Online Training: Steps to a Winning Safety Culture
In recent days and months, the transportation safety arena has changed, just as our lives have changed. The challenge now is to find new ways to effectively promote safe driving behaviors. Don’t be left behind. This is a race you want to win.