a welder working

Workplace THC Testing: Better Methods to Determine Employee Impairment

Our colleague Carol Setters has an interesting message for employers about the different way her company Predictive Safety developed to identify employee fatigue and other impairments. It is starting to be adopted as an alternative to workplace THC testing. We invited her to blog about the topic.

Many employers use pre-employment and post-accident THC testing to attempt to reduce incidents of impairment in the workplace. Based on recent developments in impairment testing methods, there appears to be a more effective way to do this.

Safety industry veterans who built their careers in high-risk industries founded our company. To a person, they will break down recalling stories of driving to an employee’s house after a fatal worksite accident to tell his wife that her husband had been killed. They have witnessed, first hand, far too many horrific accidents.

Safety risk is very real to them.

Our founders wanted to introduce the safety practices they had been following for decades into the modern era by using big data. We started with a unique predictive fatigue management system, which has reduced accidents in the workplace by over 35 percent.

Although working while fatigued is still something many companies choose to ignore or even think is somehow a noble work ethic, predictive fatigue management practices are slowly making in-roads in high-risk industries. Companies make decisions based on ROI, and workplace accidents are extremely expensive events.

an auto mechanic working on a car, avoiding THC testing with a new fatigue testA few years after introducing our predictive fatigue management system, we received a call from a small manufacturer who could no longer live with his drug program that involved random urine analysis. He knew the results on the presence of THC were most likely not relevant to the real-time situation. He was an early adopter, he wanted to be fair to his employees, and he also knew how much it cost him to replace a good employee.

He asked us to take a module out of the fatigue system that was very sensitive to cognitive impairment and create a user interface for his employees. We happily complied. As a result, his worker’s comp claims have dropped 70 percent. Not only was it fairer to his employees, but it also reduced his operating costs.

At the same time, we’ve brought this safety product in the marketplace, we’ve seen the legalization of adult use of marijuana spread across the country. We’ve watched the struggle of one ideology regarding cannabis use.

At the end of the day, when it comes to business, it’s ROI that drives change.

Companies are at an intersection of ideology and economics. Businesses in states where adult use is legal can no longer afford to fall back on the federal law surrounding cannabis use. Unemployment is so low that in some states, there’s a shortage of talented, qualified employees. Company leaders are coming to terms with their belief in the immorality of smoking pot, not because they want to, but because it costs them money.

Since we began introducing predictive fatigue management practices to companies, we have heard stories of our system, the AlertMeter, detecting not only extreme fatigue but also overwhelming grief, bad hangovers or distraction from money problems—which are all issues that we tend to push away when we go to work. These issues are so seriously distracting that employees become a risk to themselves and those around them just as much as if they were intoxicated by marijuana.

The real objective is to remove from the workplace employees who are not fit for duty—whatever the reason. Replacing a punitive system with a company process and culture where people are reassigned for the day from driving the forklift to packing boxes or are encouraged to take countermeasures like eating an early lunch or making a private phone call to resolve an issue can improve workplace safety. This is a profoundly more effective way of dealing with impairment across the board than focusing on one suspected cause.

It’s a new way of caring instead of policing, and it’s the future we’re hoping to help create.

Carol Setters headshotCarol Setters is the Vice President of Business Development for Predictive Safety SRP, Inc. She can be reached at csetters@predictivesafety.com