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OSHA addresses drug testing and incentive programs

Employers in Minnesota and around the country may wish to revisit their company policies dealing with drug testing, incentive programs and accident and injury reporting in light of a rule that OSHA began enforcing on Dec. 1, 2016. The federal agency relies on the timely and accurate reporting of injury data to develop regulations and programs to keep America's workers safe, but some companies have policies in place that punish workers who report injuries or encourage them to remain silent after workplace accidents.

Some companies require their workers to submit to drug tests after any kind of accident, and this can lead to workplace injuries going unreported because employees are concerned about their drug use being discovered. Under the new rule, employers will only be able to order drug testing when they have reason to suspect that impairment contributed directly to the accident or injuries being investigated. OSHA points out that federal and state drug testing regulations remain in effect, however.

The new OSHA rule also addresses company incentive plans that could lead to the under-reporting of injuries or accidents. Policies that give workers an incentive to remain injury-free are frowned upon, but plans that reward workers for reporting safety violations or unsafe conditions are encouraged. OSHA also urges employers to reward workers who take an active interest in safety matters by attending seminars or training programs.

Recovering from a workplace injury can be a slow and frustrating process for employees who are used to being active and productive. Applying for workers' compensation benefits can also be challenging for those not accustomed to filling out complex forms, and even minor errors can lead to denials or delays. Attorneys familiar with the Minnesota workers' compensation program could help injured workers with their applications to ensure that they apply for all available benefits and that their claims are filed within the required time period.

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