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Letter to the Editor – Oregonian

Posted in on Tue, Mar 31, 2009

Des Plaines, IL (March 31, 2009) — The Oregonian
1320 Southwest Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97201

RE: Providing a Safe Workplace is American Society of Safety Engineers’ Goal in Supporting Legislation Prohibiting Use of Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Dear Editor,

In 2006 there were a total of 5,840 fatal occupational injuries in the U.S. – 5,840 people that left for work that day and never returned home – 16 people a day. In addition, 4.1 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported – that’s 4.4 nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses reported for every 100 full-time-equivalent workers in the U.S.

The Oregon members of the 98-year-old American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) work day in and day out to make sure that the millions of people who go to work continue to return home safely and free of workplace injury and illness every day. In reference to the recent coverage by reporter Michelle Cole of workplace safety and the use of medical marijuana at work, Oregon ASSE members have noted their support of legislation ensuring an employer’s right to deal with workers affected by marijuana in the workplace as a way to allow them to do their jobs — to protect the safety and health of their co-workers and products they produce along with the public’s safety.

All employees are expected to be provided a safe and healthy workplace. When variables are introduced that can threaten that safety, safety professionals review the risk and offer solutions. Hence, they support the workplace-related provisions of HB 2497 and HB 3052 which expand the ability of an employer to prohibit use of medical marijuana in the workplace.

If an employer fails to provide a safe and healthy workplace they have a lot to lose, especially in costs. Those tangible costs can be for increased workers compensation, health coverage for injured employees, a reduction in productivity, high turnover, retraining, reduced employee and customer morale, a tarnished employer reputation, and much, much more.

At the recent state legislative hearing, ASSE members noted they support the provisions contained in HB 2497 and HB 3052 that would help guarantee an employer’s right to protect workplaces and other workers from those who consume or are impaired by marijuana. They noted a worker’s use of a drug like marijuana may make a workplace unsafe and increase the cost of doing business. According to the results of a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-sponsored survey, drug-using employees are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace incident, five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim, 2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal or time off, 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, and three times more likely to be late for work.

In Oregon there were a total of 69 fatal work injuries in 2007. As far as ASSE members go, one workplace death or injury is too much. We should all be working together to make sure the fatality number for workplace deaths in Oregon is zero.


Lee Briney
ASSE Columbia Willamette Chapter

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