NSC Finds Expanded Scope of Workplace Impairment Requires Comprehensive Approach

  • Published
  • 16 February 2021
  • Category
  • News

A newly released National Safety Council (NSC) survey shows 90 percent of employers are concerned about mental health and chronic stress impacting fitness for duty. In response, the NSC is calling on employers to consider far more than the effects of prescription drugs and illicit substances when identifying and managing employee impairment in the workplace.

In a press release, the NSC recommends that employer policies and procedures expand on the definition of workplace impairment to include anything that could impede a worker’s ability to function normally or safely as a result of a number of factors, including chemical substances (e.g., alcohol, opioids, cannabis),  fatigue, and stress-related mental health and social factors. When the council began a holistic assessment of workplace impairment last year, it found 93 percent of survey respondents agreed a broader description of impairment that extends beyond substances to include health and well-being is needed.

The NSC said survey data underscore how the pandemic has impacted workplace safety. In expanding what it means to be impaired in the workplace, the NSC  aims to reshape the national narrative and help employers adjust internal policies and programs accordingly.

While impairment has been a workplace safety issue for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the need for more comprehensive ways to address employee substance use and misuse, as well depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Meanwhile, the country’s opioid crisis continues. In a 12-month period ending May 2020, there were 81,000 fatal drug overdoses – the highest number ever recorded in the U.S., the NSC reports.

More than half of employers surveyed – 52 percent – said they know impairment decreases workforce safety; 77 percent of respondents view impairment as an important consideration when determining an employee’s fitness for duty. While 70 percent of employers said they discuss substance impairment during employee onboarding, only 47 percent discuss other forms of impairment, such as fatigue, mental health and stress. In previous research, the NSC found that fatigue negatively impacts 90 percent of employers.

For related resources, visit nsc.org/safer. WorkCare is an NSC Safe Actions for Employer Returns (SAFER) Task Force Member. At WorkCare, we support total worker health across the care continuum. To learn more about our integrated employee health management solutions, visit our services webpage or contact us at info@workcare.com.

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