The opioid epidemic has yet to hit its peak and more states are continuing to legalize medical or recreational use of marijuana. These trends can have an effect on workers in the door and window industry throughout the nation.

Dave Daquelente, executive director of the Ironworker Employers Association of Western Pennsylvania, says that it is important to implement appropriate drug testing policies in order to promote employee safety and health.

“The current industry challenge is that testing is only available for the presence of drugs, not impairment caused by them. There hasn’t been any approved way to test impairment due to drug use because the way drugs metabolize in the body varies so much. In the future, there will likely be a breath device to test,” says Daquelente.

Without testing available to measure the impairment caused by drugs, employers are unable to identify with accuracy how an employee’s drug use might affect the safety of a jobsite.

“Companies need to bring their drug testing policies up to date by looking at current local, state and federal law. When collective bargaining agreements are involved, there needs to be a discussion on these policies,” says Daquelente.

According to Daquelente, the right drug tests should be used for the right reason.

“Different regions and generations have different drugs of choice. It’s important to keep in mind what’s being used by who in your area,” he says.

Daquelente says that employers should be aware that people from all age groups use drugs.

“Heroin and Fentanyl are not just being used by young people in their 20s. In Cleveland and Cuyahoga County in Ohio, 125 people between the ages of 30 and 44 overdosed during the first nine months of 2016. In the 45 to 60 age group, 103 people overdosed,” he says. “This shows that this type of drug use can happen in older generations.”

In a presentation at the Iron Workers-IMPACT Safety and Health Roundtable in July, Daquelente spoke about the rise in e-cigarettes being used with THC oil instead of liquid tobacco. Marijuana use can be dangerous for employees while working, despite the substance being legalized or decriminalized in many areas of the country.

“A recent study showed that the potency of marijuana is increasing. In 1995 the average potency was 4 percent. In 2015, it was 12 percent. Marijuana potency has been found to be even higher in states that have legalized medical marijuana.”

Fingernails, hair, urine, blood and oral fluids all have different windows of detection. Some have a higher adulteration potential, or potential for someone to cheat the drug test. An informative chart can be found on the United States Drug Testing Laboratories’ website.

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