Impairment Detection Technology Makes Workplaces Safer

NSC report informs employers and policymakers on availability and reliability of impairment detection products and their implementation.

August 16, 2022

ITASCA, Ill. – Impairment in the workplace takes many forms, and it all presents a safety issue. Impairment from chemical substances, fatigue, medical conditions, mental distress and other factors can present a fitness-for-duty concern, as well as impact employee wellbeing, putting employers in need of resources to identify and address the issue. 

Part of the solution: Impairment Detection Technology. As researched and described by the National Safety Council, IDT is technology with the potential to screen for multiple forms of impairment to aid in fitness-for-work assessments, and according to an NSC survey, the majority of responding employers are interested.

“Detecting when a worker is impaired is critical to the safety, health and wellbeing of an organization’s workforce,” said Jenny Burke, vice president of impairment practice at NSC. “When results of the survey showed 16% of employers surveyed are using IDTs, it shows a confidence in the technology, while simultaneously presenting an opportunity to research these technologies. NSC did what it does best, and the findings of that research make up this report, giving employers the resource they need to make informed safety decisions regarding these detection technologies.”

In February 2021, NSC became the first national organization to call on employers to consider far more than substance use when addressing workplace impairment and to outline in policies and procedures anything that could impede an individual’s ability to function normally or safely. This holistic approach includes a number of factors, from chemical substances such as alcohol, opioids or cannabis, to physical factors like fatigue, as well as mental distress and social factors like stress, all of which are claimed to be detectable by several of the IDTs included in the report.

Fifteen impairment technologies from 15 companies were eligible for inclusion in the analysis conducted by NSC. Of the 15 IDTs analyzed:

● Five companies (33.3%) claimed their technology could detect for all seven impairment types discussed (alcohol, opioids, cannabis, other substances, fatigue, medical conditions and other forms of possible mental impairment, such as mental distress)

● Eight companies (53.3%) reported the ability to detect at least five impairment types

● Two companies (13.3%) provided more specialized impairment detection

In addition to IDTs, supervisors themselves have the ability to recognize and respond to perceived impairment in the workplace, and in October 2021, NSC launched a program to equip supervisors, safety professionals and other leaders with the proper training to do so. The recent introduction of the Preventing Impairment in the Workplace Act by Congressman Burgess Owens also calls attention to the importance of this approach, as the legislation authorizes a workplace training program through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to help employers recognize, respond and prevent workplace impairment while addressing increased safety concerns. 

Full findings from the new NSC report, as well as an IDT web tool, are available free of charge. To learn more about impairment at work, please visit: nsc.org/impairment.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate—and has been for more than 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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