NSC Impairment Detection Technology & Workplace Safety Report

Recently the National Safety Council (NSC) published their Impairment Detection Technology & Workplace Safety Report. We are honored to have our technology The AlertMeter® included in the analysis. Below are the key takeaways, potential benefits, and summary of the entire report.

To read the entire report please click here

Key Takeaways:

  • 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. The broad range of signs and symptoms presented
    by all of these underlying causes of impairment makes impairment detection technology (IDT) an attractive safety
    solution for employers. NSC defines IDT as technology with the potential to screen for multiple forms of impairment
    to aid in fitness for work assessments.
  • NSC defines IDT as technology with the potential to screen for multiple forms of impairment in order to aid in fitness for work assessments.
  • Safety technologies may provide a more objective measure to help employers identify and address impairment in the workplace.
  • A multi-step process was used to gather information on each technology, beginning with an environmental scan
    and review of existing academic and non-academic literature, online articles, and company websites. In a good-faith
    effort to collect accurate data, semi-structured interviews with company representatives were conducted. They
    were also given the opportunity to complete a survey to confirm the data collected and to suggest any corrections
    prior to analysis.
  • Ultimately, a total of 15 impairment technologies from 15 companies were eligible for inclusion in this analysis.
    Of these 15 IDTs:
    • Five of 15 companies (33.3%) claimed their technology could detect for all seven impairment types that were
      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.
    • The most common type of technology used to detect impairment was oculomotor-based testing (60%), followed by psychomotor vigilance testing (40%).
    • Small- to medium-sized companies were most likely to be using IDTs.
    • Safety-sensitive industries were the most common adopters of this technology.
    • A majority (80%) of the technology providers recommended using IDT prior to the start of an employee’s shift.
    • Mobile applications and other handheld devices were the most common IDT delivery method (53% combined).
    • All 15 companies have either ongoing or past research concerning the scientific evaluation of their technology.
    • Ten of 15 companies (66.7%) reported examining the use of their technology for more than one type of
      impairment, although most companies’ studies focused on fatigue as the primary impairment type.

There are promising IDTs on the market for workplace safety, but there is no single technology that suits the needs of every employer. The landscape in this field is evolving, and employers should consider examining these technologies, ensuring each technology is fully evaluated, potential barriers are addressed, and effective change management principles are used to best prepare for piloting and/or implementation.

Potential Benefits:

  1. Real-Time Objectivity: One of the primary advantages of IDT is that it can provide an objective framework for fitness for work determinations at the time the employee is working. This real-time assessment can better identify impairment, and more effectively preserve workplace safety. Research conducted by the National Workrights Institute (Maltby. n.d.) found that 82% of employers using IDT reported improved workplace safety after technology adoption.
  2. Privacy: Another benefit is that IDT better protects employee privacy. Its drug testing counterparts can disclose information about an employee’s private life and are considered more invasive. 
  3. Comprehensive Detection: : IDTs aim to detect impairment from all causes (fatigue, substance use, mental distress, etc.), rather than for one cause alone (e.g., cannabis use). However, research is still needed to validate the technologies and their ability to detect for specific and multiple causes of impairment.
  4. Cost Savings: Employers may consider using IDT to reduce incident rates, reduce insurance and litigation costs, and increase production by proactively enhancing safety. IDT can also keep employers on the cutting edge of safety technology.
  5. Prevention: Other suggested advantages of IDT include an improved ability to intervene before an incident occurs, the ability to detect impairment when signs are not readily visible, the ability to implement the technology at various intervals (e.g., pre-shift, reasonable suspicion, post-incident, random, etc.), and to help identify employees with medical conditions or other chronic impairment issues. 

Overall Summary:

There are promising IDTs on the market for workplace safety, but there is no single technology that suits the
needs of every employer. All workplaces have unique barriers and considerations. Additionally, this review is not
without limitations and more research is needed to ensure each IDT is formally validated to detect for various
forms of impairment. Even so, employers can and should consider examining these technologies for fitness for
duty assessment. It is imperative that each technology is fully evaluated, potential barriers are addressed, and
effective change management principles are used to best prepare for piloting and/or implementation.

 

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