Prevent Marijuana from Being Cause of a Workplace Accident
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the use of marijuana is having an impact in the workplace. As the number of marijuana users rise, more employees and job applicants are testing positive in drug-screening tests. Ultimately, marijuana’s negative effects and risks in the workplace is a safety issue.
The primary reason for prohibiting use of marijuana in the workplace is because smoking marijuana on the job has been linked to job accidents and injuries stemming from the short-term effects of being high such as impaired body movement, difficulty thinking, memory problems and altered senses. In short, there is a link between illicit drug use and workplace accidents. While smoking pot may be reasonably safe in a controlled environment, the fact that workplace safety may be jeopardized raises concerns.
Worker's Marijuana Use Likely Cause of Explosion
In one case, a man's regular marijuana use likely contributed to an explosion that burned him and a colleague, according to an Arkansas Court of Appeals decision that denied workers compensation benefits for the employee.
According to the report, Greg Prock was working for Bull Shoals Landing marina in November 2007 when he and co-worker Matt Edmisten were asked to remove the tops of two empty oil barrels. Prock previously had been told to use a pneumatic air chisel for the task to avoid creating sparks that could ignite the oil, according to testimony from the marina's co-owner.
However, Prock routinely used an acetylene torch to remove the barrel tops, and did so in this instance. One of the barrels exploded, creating a large fireball that set the men "pretty much totally on fire," according to a co-worker's testimony.
The men tested positive for illegal drugs after the accident, and the marina's co-owner said Prock and Edmisten exhibited "suspicious behavior" that morning, court records show. Prock testified that he smoked marijuana three or four times a week after work, but had stopped two weeks before the accident so he could pass a drug test for a potential new employer.
“I think it’s clear these gentlemen were not in the right state of mind,” he said, adding they were “tearing into a barrel with an acetylene torch and no safety equipment on, they don’t read the label, they don’t open the barrel. I think it borders on reckless behavior.”
The appellate court upheld the workers' comp commission decision, saying Arkansas law presumes that illegal substances caused a workplace accident when evidence of drug use is found. "It was not incumbent upon Bull Shoals Landing to produce evidence that Prock was impaired prior to the explosion. Rather, once the presumption arose, it was Prock's burden to prove that the explosion and resulting injury were not substantially occasioned by Prock's use of marijuana," the ruling said.
In the ruling, three of the court's nine judges dissented to a portion of the opinion.
Data Shows that Marijuana on the Roads is on the Rise
The fact that workplace safety may be jeopardized at work raises concerns in the transportation industry as well. This is especially an issue in work situations that involve the use of machinery or driving vehicles.
The impact of marijuana use on transportation safety is a clear and present danger. Some studies demonstrate the drug impairs attentiveness, motor coordination, and reaction time, and affects an individual's perception of time and speed. Canadian researchers in 2012 concluded that smoking pot within three hours of driving nearly doubles the risk of a vehicle collision, and marijuana use is on the rise.
According to researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health report, fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade, fueling some of the overall increase in drugged-driving traffic deaths. Drugged driving accounted for more than 28 percent of traffic deaths in 2010, which is 16 percent more than it was in 1999.
The researchers also found that marijuana was the main drug involved in the increase. It contributed to 12 percent of fatal crashes, compared to only 4 percent in 1999. The study authors also noted that the combined use of alcohol and marijuana dramatically increases a driver's risk of death.
"If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of the driver who is not under the influence of alcohol," Li said. "But if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober person."
In March 2016, AAA reported that acute use of marijuana has been shown to moderately diminish virtually every driving‐related capacity, generally in a non‐linear dose‐response fashion: psychomotor functions, cognition, attention, vigilance, tracking, reaction time and coordination. Generally regarded to affect automated/routine driving more than that requiring conscious effort. Effects depend on dose, absorption, time since peak blood level, history of use, and skill/task.
Stay ahead of Marijuana Laws in your Drug Testing Policy
Marijuana and its negative effects and workplace risks should not be tolerated if safety is the main concern for a business, especially in safety-sensitive work roles, as should be the case with alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
If your business is not federally regulated, you can set-up a policy wherever you feel comfortable starting: just pre-employment testing, only after post-accident testing, or a full-fledged random testing program. Your program can even target safety-sensitive roles if you do not want a company-wide testing program.
With laws surrounding marijuana legalization changing, staying on top of the law to make sure your workplace drug testing policy is compliant is daunting. Let the professionals at CleanFleet keep you in compliance and help keep your workplace safe. Call us at 503-479-6082.