COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Positive Drug Tests and On-Site Testing

Since the emergence of COVID-19, the importance of drug and alcohol testing and driver physicals have not changed, especially considering positive drug testing rates have increased in April and May since 2019.

According to Clinical Reference Laboratories (CRL), positive drug test rates are up by more than 16% in April and 24.1% in May year-over-year. The culprit during the pandemic is marijuana, which increased 21% in April and 37.8% in May compared to the previous year. 

Similarly, DISA’s random positive drug testing rates have more than doubled, up from 0.18% in April 2019 to 0.37% in May 2020.

Employers, more now than ever, are taking employee health more seriously and attempting to make the required drug tests and driver physicals more convenient as they do not want to put workers at risk if health clinics are being used to test people who have COVID-19 symptoms.

With the hyper-focus of clean and safe facilities, minimizing hospital sites, and navigating collection sites or medical offices closing, many fleets are turning to on-site mobile drug testing.

This allows fleets to manage when drivers can be drug tested or receive required physical exams, trust their COVID health protocols, and not worry about busy testing and physical exam sites.

Trusted mobile collection sites are maintaining effective drug-testing procedures during the pandemic while increasing their on-site safety guidelines, which includes:

  • Stopping any testing if an illness is evident and advising the customer
  • Staff wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment during test sessions
  • Cleaning instruments and testing area after every test
  • Maintaining a minimum safe distance wherever practical, and
  • Treating the Donor with courtesy and respect at all times

On-site testing not only  employee safety during the pandemic, recent studies have shown that on-site and mobile collection testing has a higher rate of positives than clinic based testing.

This is most likely due to the element of surprise, where drivers may normally be able to purchase products in hopes of cheating their drug test or less opportunities for subversion of the testing process.

 

Can drivers refuse a drug test claiming COVID-19 pandemic concerns?

If your employees express concern about reporting for a drug test, on-site testing can assure them that employer guidelines are in place to protect them during drug testing and physical procedures.

It is important to note, if an employee refuses a drug test for any reason (including COVID-19 concerns), it is reported as a refusal to test.

This means collectors document the refusal and follow the company’s guidelines as outlined in its refusal to test policy.

If the company is regulated by the DOT, refusals are reported to the MRO (Medical Review Officer), reviewed, and a decision is made on whether or not it is a refusal to test based on the circumstances.

No matter the outcome, the driver will not be allowed to perform safety-sensitive functions, such as driving, during this process.

 

Want to save time and money?

If your company is committed to creating and maintaining a drug-free workplace with little to no interruptions in your operations, on-site collection may be the right option for you.

Our medical professionals are available to go on-site and perform drug and alcohol tests.

On-site drug and alcohol testing can be scheduled at your place of business or any other location of your choosing.

We are extremely flexible and can accommodate the busiest of schedules and various types of operations.

Our Certified DOT Examiners, Certified Collectors and Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT) are readily available to serve you.

 

How does Mobile Drug Testing work?

  1. Schedule an on-site testing appointment for your company.
  2. We send appointment confirmation and a letter to all of your employees letting them know what to bring to the exam (upon request).
  3. Our professional staff will arrive 10 minutes early to set up.
  4. Our certified staff will provide collection services in an efficient manner.
  5. CNS will send samples to the certified lab. (24-48 turnaround time for DOT 5 Panel)
  6. Results upload by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) to your portal.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

How Nurse Triage Phone Lines Keep Drivers Safe And Injury Claim Costs Down

nurse triage phone lines

Nurse triage phone lines are quickly becoming the best solution for fleets and drivers to be treated quickly and safely if feeling sick or after a workplace accident.

Each year, millions of truck drivers spend thousands of hours behind the wheel keeping the economy moving.

These drivers not only face the chance of being injured if involved in one of the 116,000 annual crashes, but also face the unrecorded number of workplace injuries that occur as they do their job. 

These fears are compounded with the prevalence of COVID-19 and the approaching flu season leading to increased concern about sending drivers to a hospital for an illness or workplace injury.

Too often, truck drivers are pushing on through illnesses concerning themselves with their work schedules and loads instead of their health.

How do drivers know if what they have is a seasonal allergy, a cold or COVID-19? How can they get treated or checked out?

Nurse triage phone lines are quickly becoming the best solution for fleets and drivers to be treated quickly and safely if feeling sick or after a workplace accident.

 

What is a nurse triage?

A triage nurse is the first point of clinical contact for patients visiting an ER and is a registered nurse positioned in an emergency room or other facility that is responsible for assessing patients calling in and determining their level of need for medical assistance.

The criteria used to evaluate a patient include:

  • the type of injury, illness or cause for concern
  • severity
  • symptoms
  • patient explanation of emergency, and
  • vital signs

Responsibilities of a triage nurse include:

  • performing patient assessment
  • reassessing patients who are waiting
  • initiating emergency treatment (if necessary)
  • sorting patients into priority groups according to guidelines
  • communicating status of patients to doctors and nurses

 

How Nurse Triage Can Lower Your Claim Cost

The cost of an injury claim directly impacts the cost of worker’s compensation insurance. The faster an injury claim can be completed, the lower the costs of the claim will be.

To reduce lost time of reporting the injury claim, encourage your drivers to get the injury claim process going immediately by utilizing a nurse triage.

When an injury occurs, your driver calls the nurse triage phone number to speak with a trained nurse. From there, the nurse can direct the driver to self-administer first aid or recommend a designated medical care facility. 

At the conclusion of the call, the claim is immediately reported to the motor carrier, insurance company, and treating medical facility. 

Additionally, we recommend creating a strict guideline where injuries are required to be reported immediately as this can keep claim costs low.

Additional benefits of a nurse triage, include:

  • cutting down on reporting time to the insurer 
  • organizing evidence and documentation to prevent fraud
  • providing employers with a simple and affordable way to report injuries that occur from or during work
  • putting employees in insured networks and helping them avoid expensive ER visits
  • helping the carrier gather information and data regarding injuries and accidents

 

Have an illness and want to avoid busy Doctor’s offices or medical facilities?

Start your customized health plan to meet your business needs and keep your employees healthy and safe.

You can call the CNS’ Occupational Medicine team with questions about nurse triage phone lines and telemedicine or to schedule a CNS Telemedicine appointment at 888.260.9448.

Our goal is to get you or your employees well quickly and safely so you or they can return to work fully recovered.


Stricter OSHA Rule In Effect For Silica Exposure and Silica Respiratory Testing

silica respiratory testing

Worker’s exposed may not experience symptoms for 15-20 years but a chest x-ray can determine if there is lung damage.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 2.3 million U.S. workers are currently exposed to crystalline silica.

High levels of silica exposure can be found in:

  • cement/brick manufacturing
  • repair/replacement brick furnace lining
  • drilling, molding, sawing
  • removing paint
  • demolition
  • abrasive blasting
  • jack hammering
  • and more

In hopes to prevent lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease, OSHA finalized a rule in 2017 to limit worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica in high risk construction and maritime industries.

Although crystalline silica dust particles are about 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, the safety risk is dangerous if exposed to high levels.

Worker’s exposed may not experience symptoms for 15-20 years but a chest x-ray can determine if there is lung damage.

Without assessing the severity of damage, the disease could eventually cause extreme shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, chest pain, or respiratory failure.

 

Regulatory timeline of OSHA’s silica respiratory testing requirements

Since 2016, OSHA has been creating new “respirable crystalline silica” standards, which is to be fully implemented by mid-2021 to protect workers.

  • Sept. 23, 2017: the construction industry saw OSHA’s crystalline silica rule go into effect with permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over 8 hours.
  • June 23, 2018: maritime and general industries, including hydraulic fracturing, went into effect.
  • June 23, 2020: “medical surveillance” or silica respiratory testing became twice as strict with workers exposed to the “action level” at or above 25 micrograms for 30 or more days a year (previously, medical surveillance was enforced at the “permissible exposure limit,” at or above 50 micrograms).
  • June 23, 2021: Obligations for engineering controls goes into effect as employers will put into place work practices to reduce and maintain employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica to or below limits

This does not apply where the employer has objective data demonstrating that employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica will remain below 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air (25 μg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) under any foreseeable conditions.

Recordkeeping Requirements

There are three areas of recordkeeping required by companies with workers exposed to high levels of respirable crystalline silica.

Air Monitoring Data:

The employer is required to maintain records of all exposure measurements taken to assess employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

This record shall include at least the following information:

  • date of measurement for each sample taken
  • task monitored
  • sampling and analytical methods used
  • number, duration, and results of samples taken
  • identity of the laboratory that performed the analysis
  • type of personal protective equipment, such as respirators, worn by the employees monitored
  • name, social security number, and job classification of all employees represented by the monitoring, indicating which employees were monitored

Objective Data:

  • crystalline silica-containing material in question
  • source of the objective data
  • testing protocol and results of testing
  • description of the process, task, or activity on which the objective data were based
  • other data relevant to the process, task, activity, material, or exposures on which the objective data were based

Medical Surveillance:

The employer is required to maintain records for each employee covered by medical surveillance with the following information:

  • name and social security number
  • a copy of the PLHCPs’ and specialists’ written medical opinions
  • a copy of the information provided to the PLHCPs and specialists

 

Staying in compliance with silica testing OSHA rules

To ensure employers stay compliant with the stricter OSHA rules, CNS Occupational Medicine team provides comprehensive silica testing program that includes:

  • silica medical history and respirator questionnaire
  • physical exam with emphasis on the respiratory system
  • chest X-ray, with “B” reader TB skin test
  • respiratory fit test
  • Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) administered by a spirometry technician
  • testing for tuberculosis (TB)

Stop waiting at hospitals or urgent care clinics. Our knowledgeable examiners are focused on best-in-class customer service when it comes to treating workers and employers to create long term health and wellness.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.


Reduce COVID-19 Hospital Burdens, Get a 2020 Flu Shot

flu shots and flu vaccines

Why should you get a flu shot in 2020?

Health officials are wary of a second wave of COVID-19 hitting during the 2020-2021 flu season.

If this is true, there is a strong possibility that hospitals and their resources will be placed under tremendous strain.

How can we help reduce hospital burden?

If more Americans choose to receive a flu shot, this could ease the strain on hospitals across the country.

The COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have led to decreased use of routine preventive medical services, including vaccinations.

Last year’s flu season brought in an estimated 740,000 hospitalizations and up to 62,000 deaths. With the added medical attention necessary from COVID-19 cases, you can see how this will hinder the normal operation of your local hospitals.

What does the CDC say?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that less than half of Americans, approximately 45%, get the flu vaccine each year.

This may be different in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely drive more people to getting a flu shot.

According to the CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Jay Butler, “Getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever as flu and COVID-19 could be circulating together as we move into the fall and winter months.”


Interested in a flu shot?

We are able to schedule individual or group flu shots with our Mobile Clinic for you or your company's employees.

Who should get the flu vaccine and when?

The CDC recommends that anyone 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine and recommends getting the flu vaccine as early as September and October.

Staying ahead of the virus and getting your flu shot as soon as possible will help reduce the potential strain on hospital resources if people are getting sick. However, if flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.

Where can you get the flu shot?

There are a lot of options out there to get your flu shot, but if you are local to Lititz, Pennsylvania area, CNS can assist with your 2020-2021 flu shot.

We offer flu shots to individuals or companies with a large set of employees interested on obtaining the flu vaccine.


Occupational Medicine Services

Our Occupation Medicine Team is knowledgeable and focused on best-in-class customer service when it comes to treating workers and employers, creating long-term health and wellness.

The goal of our medical staff is to keep workers safe and healthy on the job, allowing you to continue the production that keeps your business running.

In addition to flu shots ,we offer a number of other health related services, including COVID-19 related services, such as pre-shift screenings, pre-employment screenings and antibody testing.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.

OSHA Required Medical Tests: Audiometric and Respiratory

Audiometric and Respiratory Testing: OSHA Required Medical Tests

Audiometric and respiratory testing may be required for employment under OSHA 29 CFR

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) require pre-employment and annual medical testing for workers in various industries, including oil and gas, trucking, manufacturing, and more to ensure safe and healthy working conditions.

When it comes to employment, there are many different types of exams and testing that may be required under OSHA rules. The most common physical exams include:

  • work fitness assessment
  • fitness-for-duty exam
  • pre-employment physicals

Beyond exams, there are important occupational health tests that may be required for employment under OSHA 29 CFR, which include:

  • audiometric testing and
  • pulmonary function testing or respiratory testing

What is Audiometric Testing?

Audiometric testing is a test of a person’s ability to hear sounds and assists in monitoring an employee’s hearing over time and is OSHA required if the employer meets certain.

An audiometric testing follow-up program should indicate whether the employer’s hearing conservation program is preventing hearing loss and needs to be managed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician. Both professionals and trained technicians may conduct audiometric testing.

There are two types of audiograms required in the hearing conservation program, which include, baseline and annual audiograms.

Baseline audiograms

The employer must retain the original baseline audiogram for the length of the employee’s employment. The professional may decide to revise the baseline audiogram if the employee’s hearing improves. This will ensure that the baseline reflects actual hearing thresholds to the extent possible.

Annual audiograms

Annual audiograms must be provided within 1 year of the baseline. It is important to test workers’ hearing annually to identify deterioration in their hearing ability as early as possible. This enables employers to initiate protective follow-up measures before hearing loss progresses.

Employers must compare annual audiograms to baseline audiograms to determine whether the audiogram is valid and whether the employee has lost hearing ability or experienced a standard threshold shift (STS). An STS is an average shift in either ear of 10 dB or more at 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 hertz.

What are employer OSHA requirements?

Under the OSH law, employers are required to maintain a safe workplace for all employees. Failure to do so can lead to serious fines and penalties.

Employers must:

  1. make audiometric testing available to all employees exposed to an action level of 85dB (decibels) or above, measured as an 8-hr time weighted average (TWA).
  2. maintain a Hearing Conservation Program to include monitoring, testing, follow-up, training and recordkeeping (regardless of the number of employees).document and keep noise exposure measurement records for 2 years and maintain records of audiometric test results for the duration of the affected employee’s employment.
    • Audiometric test records must include:
      • the employee’s name
      • job classification,
      • date
      • examiner’s name
      • date of the last acoustic or exhaustive calibration
      • measurements of the background sound pressure levels in audiometric test rooms, and
      • the employee’s most recent noise exposure measurement.

We provide baseline, periodic, and exit audiograms, as well as any follow-up testing and training at the employer’s request. Testing will be performed by trained technicians and the program will be overseen by an Audiologist or Physician.


Occupational Medicine: Free Company Analysis

Our Occupational Medicine Specialists can provide a free health analysis of your company. We will help determine what tests are necessary for your company.

What is Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT) or Respiratory Testing?

A pulmonary function test or respiratory test is OSHA-mandated to determine if an employee can safely and effectively wear a respirator to protect the health of the employee against breathing airborne contaminants.

Before your employees use a respirator or are fit-tested, they must be medically evaluated and cleared by a licensed healthcare professional using a “Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire.”

Employers must select a physician or other licensed healthcare professional (PLHCP), such as a registered nurse or physician’s assistant, to perform the medical evaluation and evaluate your health, specific job description, respirator type, and workplace conditions.

Some conditions that could prevent you from using a respirator include:

  • heart conditions
  • lung disease, and
  • psychological conditions, such as claustrophobia

An employees responses to the medical questionnaire are confidential and may not be shared with your employer.

When required by the PLHCP, additional follow-up testing may include a medical exam, additional questionnaire, PFT, EKG, chest x-ray, blood draw and urine sample.

What is Spirometry Testing?

Some occupational and personal exposures can accelerate this loss of function over time. Beyond the respirator medical evaluation, a spirometry breathing test shows how well you can move air in and out of your lungs. Periodic spirometry testing can be used to detect such accelerated losses.

Under OSHA 29 CFR PFT, spirometry testing is required in conjunction with the respirator fit test under certain circumstances to measure respiratory function.

Spirometry testing may be performed on workers who perform jobs that may cause exposure to possible lung hazards, are physically demanding, or require wearing a respirator. Spirometry is used to diagnose asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions that affect breathing and is required for some workers by OSHA standards.

Before conducting spirometry testing, technician should interview the worker, review medical records, and possibly consult with the PLHCP to identify health conditions that may prevent the worker from safely performing maximal efforts in a spirometry test.

All respiratory testing will be performed by a PLHCP and/or trained technician and will provide you and your employer with a written recommendation (with no confidential information) that includes:

  • If you are medically able to wear the respirator and any medical limitations for using one;
  • If any follow-up medical evaluations are needed; and
  • A statement that the doctor or licensed healthcare professional has provided you with a copy of their written recommendation.

You must be re-evaluated when:

  • Reported medical signs or symptoms, such as a heart condition, lung disease, or claustrophobia;
  • A physician or licensed healthcare professional, supervisor, or the respirator program administrator informs your employer that you need to be re-evaluated;
  • The respiratory protection program indicates a need for you to be re-evaluated; or
  • A change occurs in workplace conditions that increases the burden on you while using the respirator.

>>> Learn more about Occupational Medicine <<<


Occupational Medicine Services

Employer OSHA and Occupational Medicine testing

We are able to assist with your OSHA and Occupational Medicine needs, no matter your company size.

Individual and combined services are available:

  • Audiograms, respiratory and hazwoper physicals
  • DOT and non-DOT drug and alcohol consortiums
  • Drug and alcohol testing programs
  • Exposure testing and medical surveillance
  • Mobile Health Clinic available for on-site services
  • OSHA compliant physicals and exams
  • Pre-hire screenings
  • Pre-employment and DOT physicals
  • School bus driver physical exams
  • Vaccinations and flu shots
  • Workplace injury treatment and management

The goal of our best-in-class medical examiners is to keep workers safe and healthy on the job, creating long term health and wellness, allowing you to continue the production that keeps your business running.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.


Related News


COVID-19 Return to Work Plan: Antibody Testing and Temperature Screening

Return-to-Work Plans | DOT Compliance | CNS

What is your company’s Return to Work Plan?

As stay at home orders are being lifted across the country and employees start trickling back into the office or plants, it would be wrong to assume things will return to normal.

It is imperative that business owners take responsibility for protecting their employees and this can be accomplished by developing a Return to Work Plan for their organization.

In hotspots like New York, many are convinced they have already been exposed to and contracted COVID-19. However, the worse thing a person could do is assume they are immune because they believe that fever back in January was COVID-19.

This type of mentality makes a Return to Work Plan even more important.

What is a Return to Work Plan?

Basically, it means that businesses need to create a process and an environment that makes it safe for their employees to return to work.

Each Return to Work Plan will of course be unique to the company, but there are many similar concepts that can be implemented, including:

  • Antibody Testing
  • Pre-shift Temperature Screenings
  • How often will employees be checked?
  • Will employees return on a gradual basis?
  • Are there plans for cleaning of work areas?
  • Are there plans for keeping employees at a distanced?
  • Will face masks be required?

There is a much longer list  of rules and procedures that business owners can follow, but our focus is on the two that will assist in determining if employees are safe to be at work, Antibody Testing and Pre-shift Temperature Screenings.

What is COVID-19 Antibody Testing?

The COVID-19 Antibody Test provides individuals insight into whether they have been exposed to coronavirus and developed antibodies. This could be invaluable information for your company and assist in many decisions related to those employees who have developed immunity.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, COVID-19 antibody testing may indicate whether “the person has been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against it, which may mean that person has at least some immunity to the coronavirus.”

However, it is important to note that the length of protection and whether the antibodies protect from re-infection is unknown at this point.

On May 7, a New York Times article detailed a new study that “adds evidence of immunity among those who have already been exposed to the disease, regardless of age, sex or severity of illness – making antibodies to the virus.” Experts were shocked by the percentage of people who have antibodies that were never diagnosed with coronavirus.

How is Antibody Testing useful for employers?

While the science on COVID-19 is evolving, testing for antibodies may help identify individuals who have likely been exposed. This information is helpful to make informed decisions about their risk of infection and spreading the virus in the workplace.

This is useful for employers as staff who are immune could replace vulnerable individuals, especially in high-transmission settings in the transportation industry, building a “shield immunity” in the population.

As of this writing, the Center for Health Security has provided a list of tests approved for research or individual use in the US that accurately detect antibodies in people who have them between 82 and 100 percent of the time. Their ability to correctly identify antibodies only in those who actually have them ranges from 91 to 100 percent.

It may take up to 14 days after the onset of symptoms for antibodies to be developed within the body and 91% of people develop such antibodies within the first 8-13 days. Some of those infected with COVID-19 will never exhibit symptoms, but will have a detectable antibody response.

Who is a candidate for Antibody Testing?

Antibody testing is not intended for use in individuals with an active COVID-19 infection, including individuals with symptoms. Patients who believe they may have COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to contact their healthcare provider.

All interested persons who have neither felt feverish in the last 3 days nor experienced any other COVID-19 symptoms within the past 10 days are appropriate candidates. Symptoms include:

  • loss of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • dry cough
  • feeling weak or lethargic
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • slurred speech
  • seizures

To protect collection site staff, please remember to wear either a face mask or some other form of face covering, when arriving at the laboratory collection site.

What are COVID-19 Pre-Shift Temperature Screenings?

Pre-Shift Temperature Screenings simply means that you will be screening each crew member and staff when they are reporting for duty, thereby reducing the risk to other employees.

If your employees have direct contact with someone who is ill or otherwise vulnerable populations, you want to know right away to prevent any spreading to other staff members.

Temperature screenings would be useful to continue using on all employees or those that have tested negative for antibodies.

Learn more about:
COVID-19 Services and Pre-shift Temperature Screenings


How can CNS help?

At CNS, we know how difficult it is as a business owner to determine what steps need to be taken, so we are assisting employers in getting their Return to Work Plans started by implementing our COVID-19 Antibody Tests and Pre-Shift Temperature Screenings.

Our Antibody test is a blood test identifying the presence of antibodies which indicate a person’s immune response to COVID-19. Positive results indicate that an individual may have had previous exposure to COVID-19 and their body has developed antibodies.

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or info@cnsprotects.com.