CONTACT The drug-free jobsite in the era of changing marijuana laws - TSS Safety

Employers know well that construction sites are rife with potential hazards. From falls, accidents with large equipment and tools, to misuse of safety gear, the opportunities for personal injury on the jobsite are many. Add to that the danger of having a worker who is impaired because of drug or alcohol use, and it’s hardly surprising that most construction companies, contractors and builders have zero-tolerance drug policies,

These days, the question we frequently hear from TSS clients is: How can we keep our workplace drug-free at a time when marijuana laws differ from state to state and are quickly changing?

It’s challenging when employers, especially those working across states, have to deal with a legal minefield of differing state federal laws while at the same time fulfilling their responsibilities of keeping workers safe and protecting their rights. The varying degrees of the legalization of medical marijuana, especially, is challenging the scope of workplace drug policies.

According to a recent article on Buildsmart, a newsletter for the construction industry, enforcing a zero-tolerance policy has become increasingly difficult in a number of states. For example, a federal court in Connecticut ruled that a contractor could not enforce its zero-tolerance policy against a medical marijuana user. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, a court ruled that employers cannot punish or discriminate against medical marijuana users unless it causes the business to lose out on a federal benefit. (To be clear, neither statute prohibits employers from taking action against workers who are impaired or are consuming marijuana at work.) At the same time, a number of states where medical marijuana has been legalized — including California and Ohio — have no laws on the books that prevent employers from enforcing their drug policies. Still, other states have varying accommodations medical marijuana use, and these are constantly evolving.

Drug Policy & Testing

The best tool employers have to protect themselves and keep their workplace safe in this climate of flux is to have clear and comprehensive drug policy in place. Buildsmart recommends that every drug policy should include the following:

  • Definitions and inclusion the words marijuana, cannabis and other terms that are used for the drug. It is no longer sufficient to generally prohibit the use of all illegal drugs.
  • They must specifically state that the use of marijuana recreationally and on the job is strictly prohibited.
  • A detailed outline of the company’s drug testing procedures and penalties for a failed drug test.
  • Materials educating employees about the effects of marijuana on the body and brain and the potential impact on workplace safety and productivity.

Once the drug policy is in place, it is critical for employers to :

  • Implement a consistent drug testing program that is conducted uniformly and fairly for all employees.
  • Ensure that new employees are fully informed about the drug policy during onboarding.
  • Regularly review and revise the policy to ensure that it up-to-date and in keeping with current laws.

The safety specialists at TSS are here to help you with the development of a well-defined drug policy that will best serve your business and hold up under the pressure of changing laws. Contact us to learn more about how we can support your business’ safety goals during these challenging times.