Employers should be aware of an additional tool that can be used to detect employees who are impaired at work. “Impairment Testing” may be a more effective, less invasive way to measure employee impairment.

In general, drug and alcohol testing programs are implemented with the best of intentions - to ensure workplace safety and decrease accidents. Yet to date, employers – including those with employees in safety-sensitive positions – have encountered resistance to the implementation of these programs. Judges, arbitrators and tribunals have thwarted employers’ attempts to implement these programs, pointing out (among other problems) the lack of connection between a positive test result and actual impairment at work. Yet it is in everyone’s best interests to continue to pursue the original goal: ensuring the safety of employees and the public.

Impairment Testing, either alone or in combination with a drug and alcohol testing program, is an alternative that may encounter fewer legal barriers, and may also be a more cost-effective and successful strategy for ensuring workplace safety and the health of employees.

Impairment Testing (also called fitness-for-duty testing or FFD testing) has existed for decades and is used by some employers. Impairment testing measures impaired functioning, rather than the presence of drugs or alcohol. Significantly, it also detects impairment resulting from illness, fatigue, and many other causes. The testing methods available provide instantaneous feedback to employers regarding an employee’s ability to work safely at that point in time, before a safety issue arises.

Other benefits to Impairment Testing:

  • Fewer legal barriers as compared to traditional drug and/or alcohol testing programs
  • Increased ability to do drug and/or alcohol testing as failed impairment tests could support a “reasonable suspicion” basis for testing