Make the Case: Addressing Workplace Impairment
A majority of employers say impairment is affecting the safety of their workforce, yet many are not comprehensively addressing the issue. Is your workplace ready?
Impairment poses a risk to every workplace, but addressing it can directly support the safety and wellbeing of your workforce and even help your organization save on costs. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated. NSC can help you make the case to leadership and offer resources to help you prevent and address the many forms of workplace impairment.
The first step is understanding how impairment can create risks in your workplace. Fully addressing workplace safety means dealing with the underlying causes of incidents, injuries and death. If a worker is injured, this injury is likely to happen again until the root cause – whether it is infrequent breaks, insomnia or something else – is addressed.
Impairment impacts people on and off the job, meaning you must help your workers address their underlying health conditions, ensure they are working under safe conditions and confirm they are fit for duty. Providing support for all causes of impairment improves employee safety, morale and wellbeing, as well as overall workplace culture.
A true health and safety culture requires a strong safety program focused on worker wellbeing. This Total Worker Health approach encourages policies, programs and practices that integrate protection from safety and health hazards with injury- and illness-prevention efforts. This approach matters because being physically and mentally well enables employees to perform work better and safer, creating an environment where both employees and businesses thrive.
Impairment can include everything from legal and illegal substances to fatigue, stress, mental distress and more, all of which can jeopardize your workplace. Consider some of the effects of impairment:
● Reduced ability to concentrate and think clearly
● Decreased coordination and sensory perception
● Slower reaction time
● Other psychological impacts, like personality changes, mood changes or irritability
● Changes in workplace behaviors and performance
Any of these can create serious workplace risks, and they can arise from any number of situations. Picture how your employees could be affected by the fatigue of caring for a young child, the mental toll of dealing with a personal crisis or the physical changes that can accompany low blood sugar.
Along with off-the-job factors, workplace crises, interpersonal work issues, stress, injury and fatigue due to poor working conditions also negatively impact workers. If these risks seem unlikely, consider that 52% of employers say impairment negatively impacts workforce safety, and 90% say they are concerned about alcohol, opioids, mental health disorders and chronic stress in their workplaces.
Impairment should be at the top of your organization’s safety priority list. If objections are budget-related, help your leadership understand they already spend significantly on issues related to impairment. Per employee, employers spend an annual average of:
● $3,500 for untreated sleep disorders
● $8,817 for untreated substance use disorders
● $15,000 for mental distress
Taking action to address impairment can actually help save on these costs. For every $1 invested in mental health treatment, for example, there is a $4 return in improved health and productivity. At this rate, your effort to address workplace impairment will pay for itself. Check out these calculators to learn more about the costs of impairment issues and the benefits of supporting your workers:
If your leadership and top management still have trouble seeing impairment as a pressing concern, help them understand that it affects every workplace: 67% of people with a substance use disorder are in the workforce. Nearly 20% of Americans live with a mental illness, and more than 43% of employees are sleep-deprived. All these factors increase risk for workplace safety incidents and injuries.
The causes of impairment are common and the effects can be devastating. Taking action to address impairment, however, can help reduce these risks and create a safe and healthy workforce. Use the resources below to learn how you can prevent and respond to workplace impairment.