In my role as a Certified Occupational Safety Specialist, I often hear from employers who tell me that impairment is affecting their workplace productivity in greater numbers than ever before.

That’s not surprising when we know that the drug screen positivity rate has gone up by 30% or more. Why the sharp increase? One word… and one we are all tired of hearing… COVID.

Regardless of how we feel about the vaccine or the politics, COVID has touched every single one of us, at home and at work. With new rules being created daily, employers are scrambling to keep up with those demands and maintain business productivity. As employees were transitioned to home, and their children began remote learning, the storm inside the storm was created. People were dealing with new stresses, pressures and worries. Our mental health suffered and our routines were destroyed.

In response, many people turned to substances for self-medication. What starts as a glass of wine to relax, may develop into a future problem. And what used to be a 5 o’clock somewhere drink, now is happening at 2 o’clock because I am not driving, and I am at home.

So, what does an employer do?

First, check your drug and alcohol screening policy. Have you put in provisions for work from home employees? Have you identified how and when those persons may or may not be screened? What standards or measures of impairment will be used? How will supervisors be trained in recognition of substance misuse and in the documentation of that recognition?

These are all questions that you should be very clear about in your policy. If your company is required to have training under the Department of Transportation, those federal regulations are set in stone and you must be compliant, regardless of COVID. If you are a non-DOT business, training is still so important for your team. There are many avenues to getting symptom recognition training for your supervisors, in person (when possible), online, via live streaming, etc. I believe that training is the second most important step that employers and employees can take to keep workplaces safe and productive. Knowledge is powerful. The more we talk about and educate, both employers and employees, on impairment and the consequences, the safer we will all be.

TSS has multiple ways for you to train on substance misuse. Contact Ginny Clay (907) 228-6167 to discuss which avenue is best suited for you and your team.