Impairment Assessment Explained By Leading Safety Lawyer

Interview with Adele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP



If you're in a hazardous profession, and most of the ones that I deal with are very hazardous, you have to be sure that everybody is at the top of their game every day. And that really goes more to the cognitive and the behavioral impairment issues rather than hanging your hat on some abstract number that really may be meaningless in terms of what's going on with that individual that day.


Impairment, and impairment testing, it's an assessment method to capture whether the person is off their stride period. It could be alcohol, it could be drugs, it could be fatigue, it could be stress, and all of those are factors that can impact adversely workplace safety. They're not necessarily due to impairment from drugs or alcohol. I prefer that approach, frankly, from a safety and health perspective, because you are capturing whether that individual is fit for work. And, if you can capture that there's a deviation.


The drug test is simply you know, the chemical measurement, what's in their system. It doesn't capture how they react to it. And somebody who is a regular medical cannabis use or maybe micro dosing, they're going to be testing positive all the time, but they're not going to be impaired most of the time.


On the other hand, impairment assessment or measurement, is looking at the behavioral aspects. It's looking at cognitive performance. Are you now performing differently than you normally do? It’s a tool that helps to keep not only that worker that’s being tested safe but everybody on that job site safe.


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