NOTICE : Use of this site is for information purposes ONLY, please consult your HSE director or topside medical control for formal evaluation of medications and work safety.
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Medication and the work place.
Things to know...
Medications in the work place can be a very difficult topic to handle. This is where civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and many state protections come into play. Federal and state laws significantly limit your moves in addressing prescription drug use in the workplace.
In several safety-sensitive industries, in addition to the DOT panel, employers are also testing for prescription medications such as barbiturates (pentobarbital, butabarbital), benzodiazepines (alprazolam, diazepam), synthetic opiates (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxycodone), propoxyphene (although this drug is no longer manufactured), and methadone. A relatively new trend is also the addition of buprenorphine (Suboxone).
Some employers require safety-sensitive employees to consult with their own physicians and to report any and all work restrictions as a result of prescription medication use. Some more aggressive employers assert that an employee's use of a prescription medication that may impair workplace safety should trigger an individualized assessment of how that individual's job duties and risks, medical condition, and treatment plan intersect to determine whether that individual should be barred from working in a safety-sensitive role while using that prescription medication. Although the forgoing represents extreme prudence, all safety professionals must recognize that addressing prescription medications in safety-sensitive functions is absolutely critical to workplace safety.
• Asking an employee or prospective employee about legal drug use and/or prescription medications is prohibited unless special conditions are met.
• Testing an employee or prospective employee for legal drug use and/or prescription medications is likely prohibited unless special conditions are met.
• Employers are allowed to ascertain if an employee is able to perform essential functions of a job.
• If prescription medications make a prospective employee unfit for duty, employers may make inquiries only after a conditional offer of employment is made. Fitness for duty inquiries cannot begin before an offer of employment is made (new hires).
• Employers must apply prescription medication use policy uniformly to all employees working in that job category.
• Employee and prospective employee medical information must be kept strictly confidential.
• Employers with a reasonable belief based on objective evidence that an existing employee's ability to perform the essential job function safely is impaired by prescription medication or that such employee poses a direct threat due to the prescription medication may make inquiries/tests.
• Employers may only ask about and/or test for prescription medications when such inquiry is job related and consistent with business necessity.