To Post-Accident Test or Not?
(Fall 2017) Real Life Incidents: Working Partners® Consortium members receive phone support and consultation about drug-free workplace (DFWP) issues — a benefit we term “troubleshooting.” Here is a brief description of a troubleshoot call and our response/suggestions.
A Client Care Specialist (CCS) received a call from a Program Administrator (PA) whose company issues vehicles to employees. Their employees travel from job site to job site daily and regularly take the company vehicles home at night. One employee had just come into the office reporting that a deer jumped “out of nowhere” and crashed into the truck on his way to work. Upon investigation, the truck’s hood and right bumper were heavily damaged. While the truck could certainly be fixed, it was going to need a few thousand dollars’ worth of repairs. Thankfully, the employee did not sustain any injuries. The PA was calling to explore if the employee should be sent for a post-accident test.
This situation is not an uncommon one – especially during the fall when deer are on the move. As with any type of work-related accident, the company needed to consult their DFWP policy for direction. After confirming that the employee was given a copy of the policy and signed the appropriate forms, to determine whether to test or not in this situation, the PA needed to investigate to gather pertinent information:
- At the time of the accident, was the employee considered “on the job”?
- Did the incident meet the definition of an accident per the company’s DFWP policy?
- Were there witnesses to the crash?
- Was there a police report? If so, was the employee found at fault or not?
- Was there any evidence of the deer remaining on the truck (fur, blood, etc.)?
Upon discussion with the Working Partners® CCS, the PA determined that the employee was “on the job” and that the incident met the employer’s definition of an accident. The potentially tricky part of this situation was that the company’s definition of accident includes a “cause or contributed” clause to be used in determining whether a test should occur. The employer had to determine whether or not the employee “could have caused or contributed” to the truck being damaged by the deer. Upon investigation, there were no witnesses to the crash, no police investigation occurred and the PA saw no signs of a deer on the vehicle. In other words, the PA was not able to conclusively point to something that did cause the accident. Therefore, she assessed that the employee had contributed to the vehicle damage and decided to proceed with the test.
No matter the specifics of the policy, it is imperative that employers base their decisions to post-accident test (or not test) on their written DFWP documents. Though there may be some subjectivity involved, employers need to think through each situation as if they were going to be asked (for example, in a court of law) to defend their decision. Judgments and decisions need to be made on policy elements versus intuitive or gut responses to the incident and/or the employee involved. As OSHA’s 2016 guidance about post-accident testing reminded us, post-accident testing is for the purpose of collecting data for an incident that if alcohol or another substance was involved, the individual could have caused the accident. Lastly, in such cases with “gray” elements, it is imperative that the employer determines a course-of-action that can be practiced consistently with like situations in the future.
When making action-decisions, always think comprehensively about the situation you are involved in and are creating by your actions. Also, consider the what-if scenarios to aid in determining direction. Most importantly, you could do what the employer with this situation did if you are part of our consortium:
Call Working Partners® Consortium at (614) 337-8200 or 866-354-3397.
As a member of Working Partners® Consortium, don’t forget your access to this troubleshooting service. Be safe, not sorry!