Current Status of OSHA’s Injury and Illness Reporting Rule

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently made sweeping changes to its injury and illness reporting rule.  The agency delayed enforcement of the rule until December 1, 2016.  Many industry advocates were hoping for a reprieve, and several industry groups, including the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Manufacturers, had filed suit, seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect.  Unfortunately, the injunction was denied and the rule did go into effect on December 1.  However, the rule is still being challenged.  Interestingly, the incoming administration recently jointly filed a letter with the court along with the plaintiffs, stating that each side planned to move for summary judgment, strongly suggesting that the incoming administration has no plans to revise or revoke the rule.
One of the more troubling aspects of the rule was not in the rule itself, but in the preamble to the rule — OSHA’s stated position that it would consider blanket rules that require drug testing of employees after any accident to be unreasonable, i.e., to discourage the reporting of injuries and illnesses.  Without announcement, OSHA issued guidance on its position late last year that should ameliorate employers’ concerns.  Simply put, employers do not have to have reasonable suspicion of drug use, but reasonable suspicion that drug use could have led to the accident causing illness or injury.  OSHA provides the following examples:

“Consider the example of a crane accident that injures several employees working nearby but not the operator.  The employer does not know the causes of the accident, but there is a reasonable possibility that it could have been caused by operator error or by mistakes made by other employees responsible for ensuring that the crane was in safe working condition.  In this scenario, it would be reasonable to require all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the accident to take a drug test, whether or not they reported an injury or illness.  Testing would be appropriate in these circumstances because there is a reasonable possibility that the results of drug testing could provide the employer insight on the root causes of the incident.  However, if the employer only tested the injured employees but did not test the operator and other employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, such disproportionate testing of reporting employees would likely violate section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv).

Furthermore, drug testing an employee whose injury could not possibly have been caused by drug use would likely violate section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv).  For example, drug testing an employee for reporting a repetitive strain injury would likely not be objectively reasonable because drug use could not have contributed to the injury.  And, section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv) prohibits employers from administering a drug test in an unnecessarily punitive manner regardless of whether the employer had a reasonable basis for requiring the test.”


So, if an employee on a scaffold dropped a piece of lumber, striking an employee below in an area the employee was allowed to walk, it would not be proper to test the employee below, but it would be proper to test the employee on the scaffold, because operator error — and possible drug impairment — could have contributed to the accident.

It still remains to be seen whether this rule will be rescinded through the Congressional Review Act or vacated through the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Texas, but in the meantime, employers should make sure their policies regarding injury and illness reporting comport with the new requirements.

Article Source: Michael Billok  | Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC
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Economic uncertainty drives employees to drink outside of work

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Employers Tighten Drug Policies In Face Of Pot Legalization

The push to legalize marijuana is not causing employers to mellow out. More than a third of employers that have modified their drug policies in response to new pot laws have made them more restrictive, according to a survey released Monday by the Society for Human Resources Management.

Employers in states where both recreational and medical marijuana is permitted seem to have drawn the hardest line. Eighty-two percent of respondents there say marijuana use at work is not permitted for any reason, compared with 73 percent who say so in states where only medical marijuana is legal.

In medical marijuana states, 22 percent of employers have exceptions for medical cannabis use in their drug policies, while only 11 percent of employers have medical exceptions in states where recreational use is also permitted, according to the survey.

The group surveyed 623 human resources professionals in 19 states that have legalized medical marijuana and four states, plus the District of Columbia, where both medical and recreational pot is legal.

In Illinois, where dispensaries started selling cannabis to medical patients last month, the law governing the pilot medical marijuana program states employers can’t discriminate against employees for having a patient card, but it does allow them to implement zero-tolerance drug policies, including terminating people if they test positive for pot. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Most respondents to the survey said their drug policies existed prior to legalization, and they have not made changes since. But 29 percent of respondents in recreational pot states and 16 percent in medical marijuana states say they have modified their policies.

Of those, 37 percent say they have made their drug policies more restrictive, while 12 percent said they have made them less so.

Looking ahead, 5 percent of companies in states where only medical marijuana is legal said they plan to make their drug policies more restrictive in the next 12 months, and another 5 percent said they plan to make them more accommodating. Sixty-nine percent said they do not plan to change their policies.

Job seekers who think their weed use is protected under state law may be in for a reality check. Thirty-two percent of respondents in medical marijuana states, and 38 percent in states where recreational weed is also legal, say they don’t hire medical or recreational marijuana users. Ten percent of respondents in medical marijuana states, and 7 percent in recreational states, said it depends on the position being applied for.

Source: Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz (Chicago Tribune)

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The world in which we live can be a noisy place and there can be times when environmental sounds are dangerously loud to be exposed to; whether at work, in public events such as firework displays or music events.

Equally, with music becoming more portable, on our phones and MP3 players we are listening to music for much longer periods of the day, and potentially at high levels. Over time, risky listening habits can permanently damage hearing or cause tinnitus, affecting our ability to hear the music we love as well as conversation at home or at work.

How can you protect your hearing?

A wide range of technical hearing protection products are available. Quality ear plugs will reduce the overall level of sound while maintaining an even balance across the sound spectrum. This means that you can still hear everything clearly, although the overall sound level is reduced. The greater the number of decibels of attenuation by the ear plugs, the better overall protection they offer.

Non-custom ear plugs. This type of ear protection is seen as the most basic form. Plugs can be made out of:

  • Memory foam (where the plug is rolled up and inserted into the ear canal)
  • Silicone (which is rolled into a ball and pressed into the ear to mould over the ear canal)
  • Flanged (where they achieve a seal down to their tapered shape)
  • Tapered ear plugs inserted into the ear to obtain a seal against the noise

One of the advantages of non-custom ear plugs is that they are disposable and therefore more hygienic. Non-custom plugs are also available fitted with specific filters for use in a variety of situations including at work, on aeroplanes, at parties and whilst asleep.

Ear muffs or defenders

Ear muffs or defenders have cups lined with sound-deadening material.  The protection usually comes from acoustic foam which absorbs sound waves by increasing air resistance, thus reducing the amplitude of the waves.

Custom hearing protection

Customised earplugs, which attenuate sounds across all frequencies rather than just low and mid-frequencies, can be of particular interest to musicians looking for ear protection.  These ear plugs are designed to protect your hearing, while delivering clear and natural sound across all frequencies.

Depending upon the environment you are in, different levels of protection will be required. Before purchasing any ear plugs discuss you needs with an audiologist/private hearing aid dispenser/manufacturer who will be able to recommend an appropriate product. Impressions of your ears will be taken by an audiologist or private hearing aid dispenser and sent to a manufacturer to be turned into an ear plugs.

Hearing loss caused from noise exposure can be permanent, but is preventable.


Source: Hearing Link

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ORAL FLUID Drug Testing

The scientific basis for use of oral fluid as an alternative specimen for drug testing has been broadly established. Corresponding developments have proceeded in analytical technologies that provide the needed sensitivity and accuracy for testing oral fluid specimens. Oral fluid and urine test results have been shown to be substantially similar, and oral fluid may have some inherent advantages as a drug test specimen. Oral fluid collection occur under observation, which should substantially lessen the risk of specimen substitution and adulteration and, unlike direct observed urine collections, the collector need not be the same gender as the donor. The parent drug is generally found in higher concentrations in oral fluids than are drug metabolites.

Use of commercial adulterants or mouthwashes were not found to interfere with the immunoassay or they did not affect test results if the products are used more than 30 minutes before specimen collection. The window of detection for oral fluid is narrower than it is for urine, and drug concentrations are generally lower. In general, drug testing of oral fluids detects drug use during the previous 24–48 hours, regardless of the route of administration, although the selection of cut-offs plays an important role in the length of the detection window.

Two basic types of collection devices currently exist: One is designed to collect undiluted (neat) oral fluid by expectoration; the second type makes use of an absorbent pad that is inserted into the oral cavity for specimen collection and then placed in a tube containing a diluent. All these collection devices maintain the integrity of the specimen during collection, storage and transport to the laboratory for testing. An indicator in the device demonstrates the adequacy of the volume of collected specimen; have a sealable, non-leaking container; and have components that ensure pre-analytical drug and drug metabolite stability; and the device components must not substantially affect the composition of drugs and drug metabolites in the oral fluid specimen.

Source: SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

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Opioid Pain Medication (Balancing Benefits and Risks)

Opioid pain relievers are the most widely misused and abused controlled prescription drugs and are involved in most unintentional poisoning deaths. Such deaths have quadrupled since 1999, and by 2007 outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine.

But the prescription overdose epidemic represents only a symptom of a larger underlying condition that is slowly and tragically being brought to public consciousness. In addressing overdoses, clinicians and the public have largely focused on how to safely prescribe opioid medication and on limiting access to opioid medication. These are important steps in solving the problem, but more needs to be done to address the underlying issue: addiction.

Addiction is a chronic and treatable disease that is present in approximately 10 percent of the population. Opioid overdose deaths frequently occur in people with untreated addiction and recently, in my practice I’ve seen a shift in deaths from prescribed opioids to heroin. The media is starting to report the increase in heroin use, but is failing to discuss treatment. The good news is addiction, and in particular addiction associated with opioids, is a treatable disorder.

Health care providers can help reduce overdose deaths by acquiring the skills to recognize the signs of addiction and helping patients access treatment; in other words, the help of every health care professional is needed to diagnose and refer patients with the disease of addiction to treatment.

Clinicians who are prescribing extended release and long-acting opioids can obtain education to learn skills necessary for the safe and effective prescribing of opioid medication.

This course is part of a program established by the Food and Drug Administration to support risk evaluation and mitigation strategies when prescribing extended release and long-acting opioids.

Patients and families can also take steps in their own homes to curb opioid misuse. In particular, parents and grandparents of teens and young adults should always be aware of the medications that are in their home. Safe storage of all prescription medications is extremely important when there are toddlers and young children in the home, and medications should be stored in locked boxes instead of the bathroom medicine cabinet. Parents should also talk to the parents of their teens’ friends to ensure that their medications are being safely stored. If opioids are being prescribed, naloxone overdose prevention kits should be discussed with the health care provider and be available  in the home to reverse the effects of an accidental overdose.

Opioid use disorder (opioid addiction), although a serious problem, is treatable. There are a variety of medications available to treat opioid use disorder as well as a variety of psychosocial treatments which should be used in a complimentary fashion. If you know someone who you suspect may be suffering from an opioid use disorder urge them to seek help. In short, treat addiction and save lives.


Source: DATIA (Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association) by Edwin A. Salsitz, MD, FASAM

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