Better testing for a safer workplace

SafetyScan reveals how accurate, non-intrusive tests for drugs and fatigue can help businesses reduce accidents and improve performance

Better testing for a safer workplace

It’s an old story with new complications. Employers have long known that drugs, alcohol and cognitive fatigue can jeopardise the health and safety of their workforce while impacting the productivity and success of their business.

But this is a problem that’s becoming more difficult to manage. Amid heightened concerns about personal privacy, a growing shortage of workers, and the legalisation of cannabis in Canada; employers are forced to navigate an increasingly complex web of competing concerns from employees, consumers and regulators.

In a recent white paper about the large and growing financial cost of impairment in the workplace, the Canadian testing company SafetyScan Technologies illustrates what’s at stake while introducing a simple, non-intrusive test that meets the needs of employers and employees alike.

The 30 second SafetyScan screener for alcohol, drugs, and cognitive fatigue provides an accurate result in real time that helps address the privacy concerns of employees while ensuring their place of work continues to be safe and productive.

The high cost of low productivity

Tired and impaired employees suffer from decreased situational awareness that reduces their output while increasing the risk of injury. The statistics are alarming.

  • cost of alcohol and drugs to Canadian economy from lost productivity and auto accidents was over C$16.4 billion in 2017
  • cost of fatigue in the US workplace from lost productivity is about US$136 billion a year
  • 65% of mining truck accidents are caused by fatigue
  • 13-40% of all trucking industry accidents are caused by fatigue

For employers hoping to address the impact of drugs and cognitive fatigue on their employers, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Cognitive fatigue for example can originate from a range of sources both inside and outside the workplace. Shift work, long weeks, long days, quick shift returns, and high-risk hours all contribute to worker fatigue, but then there are the conditions outside the workplace as employees deal with challenges like long commutes, having children, buying homes and so many other demands on their time.

Then there’s the impact of changing attitudes and laws toward the use of drugs, especially with Canada liberalising cannabis laws and the resultant increase in the use of recreational cannabis, edibles and other products.

Statistics Canada reports that over 500,000 people admit they consume cannabis before or during work.

More testing, less privacy?

In light of the growing impact of drugs and cognitive fatigue in the workplace, there’s a clear need for employers to increase their vigilance and ensure health and safety isn’t compromised. But even here, there are challenges

Understandably, employees will see intrusive testing as a threat to their privacy. This can sow distrust among the workforce while triggering conflicts with unions and running into trouble with laws that govern human rights.

The tests themselves can be a problem too, especially when traditional drug detection methods infer impairment instead of measuring actual impairment.

For example, tests for cannabis can detect use that occurred weeks ago but provide little to no insight on whether an employee is impaired now. Newer synthetic drugs and psychedelics may not be picked up by tests at all.

Testing for impairment

To address these challenges, SafetyScan Technologies assembled a team of engineers, software developers, industrial designers, and other professionals to create a screening system that balances the needs of both employers and their employees.

The company spent more than US$10 million developing the 30 second test, which screens for impairment resulting from alcohol, drugs, and cognitive fatigue.

Importantly, the test assesses whether the employee is impaired now, and not in the past when they were on their own time.

The worker simply scans their ID and then allows the test to observe their eye movements for signs such as slow reaction time, unstable movement and changes in pupil size. The results are then measured against a personalised baseline to create a PASS or REFER.

A REFER result indicates a 99.9% probability of impairment.

The modern workplace is an increasingly complex environment where employee impairment can impact safety, productivity and morale. To address these concerns, SafetyScan has created a simple yet sophisticated test that satisfies the needs of both employers and employees.