“OSHA Says “Negative” To Post-Accident Testing”

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By John Hyman

Buried in OSHA’s impending final rule on electronic reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses is this little nugget. OSHA believes that you violate the law if you require an employee to take a post-accident drug test. Let me repeat. According to OSHA, you violate the law if you automatically drug test any employee after an on-the-job accident.

Allow me to pause while this sinks in.

While this prohibition doesn’t appear in the the actual text of the final rule, it does prominently appear in OSHA’s interpretation of the provision which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who reporting a work-related injury or illness:

“OSHA believes the evidence in the rulemaking record shows that blanket post-injury drug testing policies deter proper reporting.… [T]his final rule does not ban drug testing of employees. However, the final rule does prohibit employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses. To strike the appropriate balance here, drug testing policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.… Employers need not specifically suspect drug use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing.”

“What about workers’ compensation laws,” you say? “State law requires post-accident testing. What gives?” OSHA hears your cries, and has an answer for you:

A few commenters also raised the concern that the final rule will conflict with drug testing requirements contained in workers’ compensation laws. This concern is unwarranted. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and the final rule would not prohibit such testing. This is doubly true because Section 4(b)(4) of the Act prohibits OSHA from superseding or affecting workers’ compensation laws.

Make no mistake, this interpretation is huge for employers. As a result of this new reporting standard, employer policies that require post-accident drug testing will face scrutiny by OSHA, and OSHA will cite you for any policy that mandates post-accident testing without consideration of the specific facts and circumstances of the injury. Further, OSHA will deem retaliatory any employer discipline for a failed or refused post-accident test unless the drug use is likely to have contributed to the accident and for which the test can accurately identify pre-accident drug-related impairment. That’s a high bar for employers to clear.

This rule was to take effect on August 10, but OSHA has stated that it is delaying enforcement until November 1. If you have a drug testing policy or otherwise engage post-accident testing in your workplace, now is the time to review your policies and practices with your employment counsel. This issue is very much on OSHA’s radar, which means it must be on your radar also.

Source: Ohio OSHA Law Blog

About the author of this post:

Jon Hyman

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 831-0042, ext. 140 or jhyman@meyersroman.com.

A bit of clarity from the OSHA Interpretation link above:

Some commenters stated their belief that drug testing of employees is important for a safe workplace; some expressed concern that OSHA planned a wholesale ban on drug testing (Exs. 1667, 1674). To the contrary, this final rule does not ban drug testing of employees. However, the final rule does prohibit employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses. To strike the appropriate balance here, drug testing policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.

For example, it would likely not be reasonable to drug-test an employee who reports a bee sting, a repetitive strain injury, or an injury caused by a lack of machine guarding or a machine or tool malfunction. Such a policy is likely only to deter reporting without contributing to the employer’s understanding of why the injury occurred, or in any other way contributing to workplace safety. Employers need not specifically suspect drug use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing. In addition, drug testing that is designed in a way that may be perceived as punitive or embarrassing to the employee is likely to deter injury reporting.

A few commenters also raised the concern that the final rule will conflict with drug testing requirements contained in workers’ compensation laws. This concern is unwarranted. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and the final rule would not prohibit such testing. This is doubly true because Section 4(b)(4) of the Act prohibits OSHA from superseding or affecting workers’ compensation laws. 29 U.S.C. 653(b)

Update 8/2/2016

Court Case Filed in Texas in July for an:

EMERGENCY MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND REQUEST FOR EXPEDITED BRIEFING SCHEDULE AND HEARING –

A downloadable copy of motion in PDF format can be found at: http://bit.ly/2azdxZK

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One response

  1. A bit of clarity from the link above:

    Some commenters stated their belief that drug testing of employees is important for a safe workplace; some expressed concern that OSHA planned a wholesale ban on drug testing (Exs. 1667, 1674). To the contrary, this final rule does not ban drug testing of employees. However, the final rule does prohibit employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses. To strike the appropriate balance here, drug testing policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.

    For example, it would likely not be reasonable to drug-test an employee who reports a bee sting, a repetitive strain injury, or an injury caused by a lack of machine guarding or a machine or tool malfunction. Such a policy is likely only to deter reporting without contributing to the employer’s understanding of why the injury occurred, or in any other way contributing to workplace safety. Employers need not specifically suspect drug use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing. In addition, drug testing that is designed in a way that may be perceived as punitive or embarrassing to the employee is likely to deter injury reporting.

    A few commenters also raised the concern that the final rule will conflict with drug testing requirements contained in workers’ compensation laws. This concern is unwarranted. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and the final rule would not prohibit such testing. This is doubly true because Section 4(b)(4) of the Act prohibits OSHA from superseding or affecting workers’ compensation laws. 29 U.S.C. 653(b)

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