Are Amazon’s Policy Changes a Safety Risk?

Recent policy changes and worker injury reports have many wondering, has Amazon gone too far risking employee safety?

Amazon Forgoes Marijuana Pre-Employment Drug Screening

Last week Amazon announced that marijuana would no longer be part of their pre-employment drug screening, unless the position is regulated by the DOT. Marijuana will be treated like alcohol, i.e., workers cannot be under the influence at work, and THC will be included in any post-incident drug screenings. The company also is supporting the bill to legalize marijuana.

Will Other Companies Follow Suit on Cannabis Policy?

As multiple states legalize recreational and medical use, marijuana is losing it’s negative stigma. As recently as 2019, data showed that 12% of Americans, over 34 Million people, are current users. We expect that number has risen since the COVID-19 pandemic, as positive results for marijuana in employee drug tests are rising. However, many business, from casinos to defense contractors and healthcare have ceased pre-employment testing for THC, due to state cannabis legalization, as well as the need for workers in a tight job market.

How Should Companies Structure Employee Policies to Account for State Cannabis Regulation?

36 states have legalized medical marijuana use, and 16 of them decriminalized recreational use. There are various options for crafting a policy to best suit your company, considering the current laws in the state(s) in which you do business.  

Bottom line: It’s Complicated.

**A NO TOLERANCE marijuana policy is ALWAYS recommended for those operating vehicles or heavy machinery, or in a federal capacity.**

Our Take: Revised Policy Helps Hiring, Manager Training Needed

Amazon is taking a wise stance on removing cannabis from pre-employment screening.  Any company can set it’s policy, however, as cannabis is becoming legal for recreational or medical use, companies can adapt to keep their hiring pool open. 

Treating cannabis like alcohol is a great choice. However, companies must make sure to train managers on Reasonable Suspicion and Post-Incident Drug and Alcohol testing procedures. Like alcohol, if an worker’s performance is impaired through cannabis use and causes an incident, the employer can hold the employee accountable. 

A company has a right to make sure that employees are productive. Often if employees feel watched, they may get nervous and make mistakes. This drug policy change will be positive to build trust and reduce incidents. 

Productivity > Safety?

The drug policy change comes days after a report that Amazon warehouse injuries in 2020 are nearly double and up to 80% higher than competitors. Employees are pressured to meet unrealistic productivity targets, which, according to a $7M citation by Washington state’s OSHA regulator, are violating the law. Ironically, a rise in the use of robots increased injury rates.  Injured workers say they need more training to avoid injuries, and more time to recover from work strain, while Amazon’s spokesperson said “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams”.

In a move that seems reactive rather than proactive, the company committed to improve worker safety, investing $300M in safety projects, and introducing new programs to lower injury rates, such as wellness and healthy eating. TBD if these programs will improve Amazon employees’ safety.

At Insure Compliance, we believe that safety does NOT have to come at the expense of profitability. It is possible to achieve both. Call us to find out how we’ve helped other companies implement safety initiatives that decreased incidents, lowered costs and resulted in a lower EMR.

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