NSC to employers: Use a broader approach when addressing workplace impairment

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Itasca, IL — The National Safety Council is calling on employers to consider more than substance misuse when addressing workplace impairment, in response to the results of a recent council survey showing that 90% of employers are concerned about mental health and chronic stress impacting worker safety.

“NSC urges that employer policies and procedures outline ‘workplace impairment’ as anything that could impede one’s ability to function normally or safely as a result of a number of factors – from chemical substances, such as alcohol, opioids or cannabis, to physical factors like fatigue, as well as experiencing mental distress and social factors like stress,” the council says in a Feb. 15 press release.

The survey results show that 52% of employers acknowledge the safety of their workers is negatively impacted by impairment, while 77% view impairment as a key factor in determining fitness of duty. Additionally, although 70% of the employers said they discuss substance impairment during new-employee orientation, only 47% address other forms of impairment. Lastly, fatigued workers have negatively impacted 90% of employers.

NSC notes that these findings underscore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workplace safety, and by expanding the definition of workplace impairment – an action supported by 93% of the respondents – the aim of the council is to reshape the narrative and help employers revise their policies and programs accordingly.

“We believe the issue of impairment is multifaceted and therefore requires an approach that recognizes all aspects of it,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in the release. “We urge employers to join us in looking at impairment through the new lens that our current moment demands.”

To help employers manage these issues, NSC provides several resources and tools, such as cost calculators to help understand the business case around substance misuse and fatigue in the workplace, as well as toolkits to implement strategies to proactively address opioids and fatigue.

Also available to employers is guidance on effectively addressing mental health in the workplace.

Playbooks, guides and other resources on mental health and well-being are available at nsc.org/safer, as part of the council’s SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns initiative.

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