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No OSHA exemption for employees using drugs, alcohol

Based on a letter posted on the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in March, if an employee is injured at work while under the influence of alcohol, a Tennessee employer still must record the incident. OSHA allows an exemption for injuries that are self-inflicted, the result of self-medication or a result of grooming.

In the scenario described, an employee was injured on the job and then given a drug and alcohol test. According to the test, the employee was under the influence of alcohol, and the employer asked whether this counted as self-medicating. OSHA said that it did not because drinking alcohol is a symptom and not a treatment.

OSHA added that a workplace accident that results from activities such as horseplay, illegal activities or not following established procedure is also not exempt from reporting. The reason is that such an incident may still highlight workplace health and safety issues.

People who are injured on the job may find themselves in a difficult position. In most cases, they will be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. This is true even if the accident is due to the worker's negligence. However, an employer may try to intimidate an employee into not filing a claim. In other cases, the employer or its insurance company will contest the claim or deny it entirely. This can leave an injured worker facing high medical expenses and losing wages as a result of an inability to work, and these are the types of benefits that workers' compensation can provide. Those who find themselves in this position may want to have legal assistance when appealing the decision.

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