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It’s a tough time to be a safety manager.  You’ve heard growing concerns about the way stress, fatigue, prescription drugs, and recreational drugs are impacting your worksites. 

At the same time, your HR department is trying to attract new hires, and penalizing people who have a positive urine test on Wednesday morning for legally partaking in a recreational substance last Saturday night is not a popular notion with employees. 

This is playing out all across America right now.  Regardless of your personal opinions on this issue, as your company’s safety manager, it’s your job to know that people are awake and sober when they clock in for work.  You can accomplish that, and avoid invasive or irrelevant testing methods by using cognitive impairment testing.  Is it difficult to make the switch?

Impairment tests are broader and more comprehensive for determining if someone is seriously off their game – for any reason.  They can help identify people who pose a safety risk to themselves or the people around them right now, not paying attention to what the person might have done in the past.  Consequently, they tell employers what they need to know, and employees appreciate the fact that they have a chance to prove they are fit for work without using data that doesn’t have relevance in the moment.

There are only a few steps for implementing a company-wide impairment protocol into an existing safety or HR program.

Step One:  Training

Impairment testing is like a quick puzzle-game that measures reaction time, accuracy, and data analysis for consistent behavior on the job.  It takes about 60 seconds to complete and records each individual's personal behavior.  Scoring is done through the system comparing each day’s test to a precise record for each individual.  Training can be done at the next safety meeting, and people have fun practicing on tablets, or on their phones, and get better as they go. 

Step Two:  Safety Conversations

What occurs if someone tests outside of their allowed scoring?  The same thing that happens today when a Supervisor sees someone behaving strangely or possibly carrying the scent of alcohol or marijuana – they take them aside, and they assess the situation.  In our business, we’ve heard just as many stories of non-punitive situations, like exhaustion or emotional distress, which pose just as much of a safety risk (and are not being measured by your current system.)

Step Three:  Monitor

People use impairment testing every day, and they’re good to go in seconds.  Rarely do people test outside of their norm, so when they do, it’s something you would want to know about.  Impairment testing easily fits into a workflow, and it provides interesting feedback for the employee as well.  We’ve heard people say they’ve learned not to stay up and binge watch their favorite series on Netflix once they realized the toll it takes on their alertness the next day.

In addition to being a great safety tool, this data can be incredibly valuable.  Aggregate the data, and trends of the company’s peak performance appear.  Lots of ways to compare and correlate to increase productivity. 

NSC National Safety Council - Impairment Detection Technology Report

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