Hidden Types of “Impairment” at Work

Being “impaired” can be caused by a number of different reasons, not just alcohol or cannabis.  It is important to recognize these issues so that everyone has a safe and healthy workplace.   No matter what the cause, if the employee will be “impaired” at work, they are legally required to disclose this information to their employer.

Some examples of “hidden” impairment include:

Sleep deprivation: The worker stays up till 3am watching the tied World Series game, and their shift starts at 7am.  The person would be impaired by lack of sleep and not able to focus on operating machinery or cognitive tasks.

Allergy and other medicines: ANY drug or medication, whether for pain or allergy or cold/flu symptoms, and which has warnings about drowsiness, operating machinery or driving, will require the worker to report the use of the medication so that appropriate steps can be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

Stress Overload: Although less common, and less noticeable, stress overload can also impair a worker.  If they have a lot going on at home (illness in family, divorce, etc.) and a heavy load at work, the two things can combine to overwhelm the worker’s ability to cope.   Their cognitive processes can be impaired and the resulting lack of attention to the world around them can pose safety risks to themselves and others.