By on June 16, 2021

Matt raised an interesting question yesterday in his piece on GM’s worker woes.

Specifically, should drug testing even be a thing for plant work when many states are legalizing or at least decriminalizing marijuana?

Matt pointed out that weed is becoming normalized, as normal a vice as booze. But plant work is dangerous. It’s one thing to say workers shouldn’t be tested because society is now more permissive of marijuana use. It’s another to be concerned that a worker may choose to toke up on his/her lunch break and not be in full control of their faculties as they finish their shift. Resulting in possible injury or manufacturing defects.

Don’t forget, I saw a wheel fall off a car and while I don’t know if the tech was high at the time, he was fired in part because he failed the drug test that any dealership worker is forced to go through after such an incident (I had to do it after clipping a bollard once, but I passed as I was not high. Just klutzy).

On the other hand, if most workers can be trusted to not show up drunk, can’t most be trusted to show up not high? Aren’t most adults capable of refraining from indulging in their vices until after work?

So, does GM continue to drug test because of outdated attitudes towards marijuana, or is safety at issue? Or both? Should GM loosen up and party down, or are safety and quality too important to risk, even if few employees would likely be impaired on the job?

[Image: GM]

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43 Comments on “QOTD: Should Drug Testing Be Necessary for Plant Work?...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    To find the best and most expensive illegal drugs, conduct your drug screening on the executive floor at OEM headquarters.

    • 0 avatar

      I completely agree with this. The executives are typically the ones with the more high dollar drug problem. As a shareholder or board member I would think drug testing for EVERYONE would be something required. Having the CEO high on cocaine isn’t a recipe for success.

      That being said, it is a safety and quality hazard to have people on the manufacturing floor high while trying to assemble something as large, heavy and complicated as a vehicle. Similar to you can’t be drunk at work, you shouldn’t be high at work either.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        There is a fundamental difference between safety in a plant vs sitting in an office. If a CEO isn’t doing their job because they are high, I get it.

        But many software engineers, designers, artists…etc are doing their best work high.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Call me crazy, but as a consumer I’d expect the people assembling my new $40,000 machine to not be high or drunk.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    From a customer side, I could care less as long as the quality is still there.

    Now, how about asking OSHA, Workers Comp insurance underwriters, and AD and D underwriters?

    If something bad happens at a plant and the person who caused it or who got hurt because of drug or alcohol use?

    What about the responsibility of making sure that other employees are safe from other employees who might be impaired?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Drug test all the designers and engineers.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      At my job the engineers had CDLs to drive trucks and we got drug tested per that regimen.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Why? Is sitting in their office going to possibly get them maimed or killed? Or maim or kill someone else? The reason is simply safety. Then again, as a software engineer not in the auto industry, I’ve been drug tested for several jobs because it was a matter of policy.

      Maybe a plant can drop its requirements and we can see what happens to their safety track record?

  • avatar
    mikey

    Its been 13 years sinceI I last punched the clock at the GM Oshawa plant ..I spent my last 12 there as a Shipper/Receiver. 15 -20.. fifty three footers a shift. I wasn’t management, but I did have a lot of autonomy.

    A Trucker doing his job is required to walk around his rig before moving the wheel chocks .The same truckers and suppliers served the Ford ,Chrysler, GM, Honda ,and Toyota plants. Truckers would tell me, no matter what plant they serviced chances are they’d find somebody smoking weed between the trailers. In fairness the folks at the non-union shops were far more desecrate..but every bit as stoned as the union shop guys.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Did GM just start doing drug tests? The company I worked for 25 years ago tested its drivers. How come the guys lighting up between the trailers didn’t get flagged by the tests?

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        No testing in my day…Maybe now its different ???

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          AZ drivers going across the border have been subject to testing for years. It is an ‘American’ requirement that the Canadian/Ontario governments agreed to as part of NAFTA.

          AZ drivers in Ontario have also had to pass regular medical inspections for decades due to ‘public safety concerns’.

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    “plant work” LOL

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Drunks are easier to spot on the job than dope smokers working high. My 50 years in managing (20 years in nuclear propulsion with the Navy, 30 years in civilian industry) give me pretty good experience in dealing with both issues. One of my folks (who later admitted that he was “high as a kite”) was mesmerized by the rotating starboard propulsion shaft (24″ in diameter) attached to a 40k hp turbine set and attempted to “just touch it”, resulting in his being thrown against a 1/4″ steel bulkhead. Another in the civilian world who also admitted being “high as f*ck” attempted to pull a fuse out of a 480v switch under load with a set of un-insulated channel locks. After the explosion he giggled like a loon, “Man – It looked like the sun came out in that box!”. Agreed that drug testing for THC isn’t proof positive of someone being high at the moment of testing – THC is oil-based and will remain in muscular tissue for up to 30 days after use but what is the alternative to such testing to ensure not only quality but safety? Some sort of hand-eye-awareness testing held at the beginning of each shift?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @bullnuke – “THC is oil-based and will remain in muscular tissue for up to 30 days after use but what is the alternative to such testing to ensure not only quality but safety?”

      Exactly.

      A drug test i.e. for THC only shows if it’s in the blood stream. There isn’t a clear correlation to impairment like there is with alcohol.

      Another issue is the fact that there are other active chemicals in cannabis that can affect performance. There are at least 400 of which at least 80 are biologically “active”. One can get CBD with minimal THC content which would not show up on a screen for THC.

      I’d say that some sort of “impairment” test would be the way to go. Fatigue, stress, mental health issues can be a greater workplace impairment than THC.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Lou, this is a great answer. It’s functional impairment that matters.

        All the rest is just the outgrowth of the destructive “War on Drugs” — created as a self-promotional zombie program by police departments, “tough on crime” elected officials and the toxic for-profit prison industry, all to institutionalize an ongoing excuse to jail people and use “civil asset forfeiture” to steal their property.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          tonycd, I’m late to the party (no pun intended) but you nailed it 100%.

          Nobody should be showing up wasted for work but with few exceptions (pilots, bus drivers, etc) what you do at home is non of your employer’s damn business. Unless the rank and file can have a gander at what the boss is putting in their bodies. I’m amazed that so many are ok with booze, but when it come to pot suddenly they get all nazilike

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        It should be pretty simple. At the entrances where the workers clock in, take out those silly ramps and install one of these (https://youtu.be/3jeZwUP6fu0?t=181). The employees literally cannot report for work unless they are in peak physical and mental shape. Multiple options are available (keep watching to see different styles).

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      I’ve been high AF many times (but never once while on the clock). Not once did I ever dream of doing anything as insane as either of those two dummies. An idiot is an idiot, drugs or no drugs. Eventually The Reaper catches up with them.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m quoting a GM supervisor back circa 1979….??

    I don’t know whats up with this $hit they smoke ? They come in glassy eyed, and listen to their music . But they always seemed to get the job done., and don’t miss any of their work …Drunks screw up everything they touch, and start fist fights “..

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “On the other hand, if most workers can be trusted to not show up drunk, can’t most be trusted to show up not high?”

    Yes, they can. But safety devices and regulations aren’t designed for ‘most of the time’ – they’re designed for the exceptions. That why we wear seat belts.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Employees have an implied legal duty to report ‘fit to work’.

    However in Canada random drug and alcohol testing is allowed only under prescribed conditions, as set out by the Supreme Court in the Irving decision (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v. Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd. 2013).

    Canadian workers have much greater protections regarding their rights than do American workers. American corporations routinely conduct credit, criminal background and medical testing that would not be allowed in Canada. I have seen some American corporations/executives try to transfer their practices here.

    As stated cannabis testing does not indicate ‘degree of impairment’ or even when the cannabis was consumed. A court decision last year in Newfoundland confirms that. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1620 v. Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers’ Association Inc.

    As usual in these types of cases/instances management gets the union/employees that it deserves.

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    Employers that mandate drug tests typically do it for everyone… both the new VP of Sales and the assembly worker.

    And from my experience, they are not concerned re smoking pot. Hard drug use can lead to problems both on the assembly line and the executive suite.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      That wasn’t my experience. Drivers got tested, and that was it. Supposedly our insurance company required it. I knew one who was fired for testing positive for pot. Can’t say if that company was typical or not.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick T.

        As a consultant, I’ve had to submit to drug screenings in order to take an engagement at several health care companies in Nashville.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          A urine dip can be confused by similar chemicals.

          Sudafed and other similar OTC medications will yield false positives for ecstasy, crystal meth/methamphetamines. Even Ritalin will yield a false positive.
          Poppy seeds in food will yield false positive for opiates.
          I can’t recall all of the substances that can cause false positives. I’ve seen false positives from OTC decongestants.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Brother in-law drove car carrier for over 30 years ..A physically and mentally demanding job ..a mistake usually involves someone killed or maimed. Dropping an F350 on the highway is not an option …. So he was randomly tested for years..He would walk away 60 ft if anybody burned one within his vicinity. Another guy I know does the same thing ..His daily gig is in the right hand seat of a AB 320..

  • avatar
    MeJ

    Haven’t domestic car makers learned anything from the Japanese manufacturers? If they allow them to work (probably even worse than it is now) high, they will never achieve the reputation for quality builds as long as they’re in business. It will simply make an adequate product even less so.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Worker routinely gets high or drunk. Worker gets injured on job. Does worker say `oops, my bad`? NOOOOOOO he sues the company because they should have known and/or did not take precautions (i.e. testing) thus preventing his injury.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Don’t know about American laws but in Ontario where all Canadian auto manufacturing/assembly takes place a worker is not allowed to sue their worker for a workplace injury. Instead the worker is eligible for Workers Compensation. If the employer is to be penalized the government charges or fines them.

    • 0 avatar
      Snooder

      That isn’t how that works.

      First, if you get injured on the job due to your own gross negligence, that’s on you.

      Second, this is why Workers Comp exists, to indemnify employers from being sued by their workers for workplace injuries in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        In Canada Worker’s Compensation/WorkSafe boards can charge/fine employers and their representatives for knowingly allowing unsafe conditions to exist or allow workers that are unsafe to continue working. The law prevents a worker from directly filing litigation against a worksite.

  • avatar
    Norman Stansfield

    Yes. You don’t solve the problem with dope heads.

    The solution is simple, more automation.

  • avatar

    There is a huge difference between being baked on the job and some weed on Saturday night and unfortunately the current system penalizes the person who isn’t causing a problem

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I had a relative die in a factory accident because of someone intoxicated at a plant. He caused a large fire.

    So yes, I think it should be mandatory.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Hell no, no screening. Lets go back to the glory days of the 70s land 80s when cars were built to (fill in the blank) rust, fall apart, leak, blow up, shed paint, rattle, shake, roll, ect.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Absolutely not. A job does not mean your employer has any right to know what you do after work. Showing up wasted is a different story, but if you are sober, on time, and fully capable of doing your job then they should butt out of you life. I have to laugh with this “weed is bad” sentiment. I’ll bet a lot more productivity has been lost to hungover people than those who got high the night before.

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