An important safety issue facing many employers, including Habitat for Humanity affiliates, is the use of drugs or prescription medications by employees. As indicated in this OSHA statement, employers are expected, in certain situations, to take appropriate steps to reduce the possibility of accidents by employees who are taking medication.
What is OSHA’s current policy regarding powered industrial truck operators taking prescribed narcotics?
Answer: OSHA does not have a specific policy on powered industrial truck operators using prescribed drugs. However, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act an employer must exercise reasonable diligence to prevent violations of standards such as 29 CFR 1910.178(n), 1910.178(o), and 1910.178(p).
Whether a prescription drug will adversely affect an employee’s ability to safely operate an industrial truck will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the drug and the employee’s reaction to it, and the circumstances of the work. If an operator’s ability to operate a truck in a safe manner is impaired as a result of using medications, or for any other reason, an employer who is or should be aware of the impairment must take appropriate steps, which could include not allowing the employee to operate a truck during the period of actual impairment.
Specific to Habitat for Humanity’s work, these kinds of situations may include, but aren’t limited to, an employee’s use of forklifts, power tools, ReStore trucks, roof work and scaffolding work, as well as numerous other situations where an impaired employee’s actions have great potential for injuring him or herself or others.
In addition to including a section addressing use of prescription medication in your affiliate’s Safety Plan, and notification to a supervisor, you should address this issue on a regular basis during group safety talks.
This ‘Tool Box Talk’ on the topic can be used as the basis for discussion with your staff and volunteers. We encourage you to review this information and incorporate it into the Safety Culture at your affiliate.
As always, we appreciate your affiliate’s commitment to safety. Please contact the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about this topic or would like additional coaching on how to address it with your team.