Protect employees from distractions with cognitive pre-tests | Insurance Business America
“We’re just trying to protect you. We want you to go home at night.”
By Desmond Devoy
This article was produced in partnership with AmTrust Financial Services.
Insurance Business America’s Desmond Devoy sat down with Jeff Corder, vice president of loss control at AmTrust Financial Services, to discuss new trends in identifying impairments in the workplace before workers even check the clock.
Disabilities at work are more than just drugs and alcohol.
“We’ve always recognized disability as a problem,” said Jeff Corder (pictured).
And while it’s a serious problem when employees show up drunk or stoned, the disruption can take many different forms.
“It’s stressful,” said Corder, vice president of loss control in AmTrust Financial Service’s loss control division. He gives the example of a worker who shows up to work excited after just having an argument with his spouse.
“You’ll be distracted,” he said. Just as some companies drug test their employees before the start of their shift, some companies now have “the ability to assess your cognitive ability with a non-invasive test,” he said. The test can be as simple as an employee looking at pictures on a tablet, or an employee owning a “wearable” that can track their physical condition while they work.
The tablet-based tests create an information base that can then show when the employee deviates significantly from their normal range. A manager can look at the increased numbers and say, “Okay, something’s wrong here.”
More than just drugs, alcohol plays a role in distraction
He has seen in his own industry that various factors beyond alcohol and drugs play a role in allegations of distraction.
“I’ve seen claims where a person was distracted,” he said. “We found out that his wife left him over the weekend or that his child was expelled from school.”
Given how these outside forces in a worker’s personal life impact their work life, Corder emphasized that it’s important to know that “we’re not looking to solve a problem with anyone.” We’re here to help .”
And the solution to this can be simple. Rather than sending a worker home or suffering a reprimand, they could be reassigned to another department for a day, such as working in the parts department instead of driving a forklift.
“And you’re still getting paid, you’re still saving face,” he said. “You can help them get help.”
For an employee who is stoned or high, a good way to protect both the employee and the employer is to refer them to drug counseling services offered through an employee assistance program. Counseling and contact with social workers can also be helpful.
Another issue Corder is dealing with is overtime.
“People work overtime voluntarily,” he said. “But if you’ve been on the road seven days in a row without a break, you’re bound to be impaired.”
The company can cooperate with the employee. They may not be able to work a full shift but could be allowed to work four hours.
Work statistics indicate impairment problems
He pointed to statistics from the National Safety Council, released just before the pandemic, found that 90% of employers surveyed were concerned about distractions in the workplace and their impact on safety. Another 67% of people with drug problems work at work. In addition, 20% of American workers suffer from a mental illness and 43% of workers suffer from sleep deprivation.
Employee approval can build trust, which can be beneficial for both them and their employer.
“You need to start talking about it and selling it to your employees because that’s an added benefit that helps you. We’re just trying to protect you. We want you to go home at night because you are a valuable employee,” he said. “There are legal aspects that should be written in a company’s procedures manual. You would need to speak to the appropriate parties such as unions, Human Resources or a legal counsel. You must follow legality or HR rules. It’s like any other security program.”
He predicts that this form of testing will become more mainstream. During the pandemic, remote COVID screening questions have become more common and need to be completed online or through your personal device before starting a work shift. Tests can also be performed throughout the day.
“Wearables” can also alert managers that an employee may be at risk of repetitive motion problems. A wearable can show supervisors that an employee is “not bending their right leg enough” while on the job, which can help prevent an injury weeks or months later. And some workplace problems have simple solutions, such as a table that isn’t high enough and could cause injury.
“We raise the table two inches and suddenly the problem goes away and prevents a $100,000 claim thanks to a $10 repair,” he said. “We’re trying to protect you. But we won’t fire you. The employer would have to say that.”
A little bit of prevention could prevent a claim
With real-time, objective and private monitoring, “you prevent something” before it becomes a problem, he said. He called it a good return on investment: “If we do something to prevent a high loss event, those tests pay for themselves tenfold.” Best of all, the cost of testing “isn’t that expensive.” And I think a lot of it Insurance companies would consider subsidizing the tests somehow in the future.”
He pointed out that most of these test systems have been or are being tested by third parties and that universities are also doing research on these topics.
“My feeling is that’s going to be the wave of the future,” he said. Far removed from the old days of urine and blood tests, he likes what he sees in workplaces across the country.
“It seems to work. It’s different,” he said.
Stay up to date with the latest news and events
Join our mailing list, it’s free!