Freeman OccuMed, the occupational health services arm of Freeman Health System, has purchased seven specialized pairs of goggles that demonstrate various stages of impairment.

The goggles are available for area employers to borrow for safety training and education efforts.

"The benefits of a drug-free workforce are well researched and include fewer accidents, lower absenteeism and increased productivity," said Rick Haggard, medical director of Freeman OccuMed. "This training increases supervisors' confidence in their role in identifying impairment and improving safety among the workforce."

Six pairs of goggles, purchased from Drunk Busters of America LLC, simulate impairment while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or sleep deprivation. They work by using vision-distorting lenses to simulate a variety of adverse effects, including delayed reaction time and decision-making, disorientation, vertigo, impaired balance and coordination, and blurry vision.

The seventh pair, purchased from Innocorp Ltd., simulates cognitive dysfunction while under the influence of marijuana. Through a series of exercises for the wearer that rely on tinted lenses and color-coded activities, the participant must depend on his or her short-term memory to complete tasks. The loss of visual cues makes it difficult to complete the tasks, demonstrating the "potentially severe consequences" of impairment, OccuMed officials said.

"I think it's just a good show-and-tell," said Linda Sitton, director of operations at Freeman OccuMed. "Being able to put your hands on something and put the goggles on and put yourself in that environment, sometimes the light bulb comes on."

Sitton said the goggles could help area companies and businesses as they craft policies for the use of marijuana among employees. Missouri voters last year approved the use of medical marijuana, and the state is tasked with implementing those provisions.

"These (goggles) can help let them know what to start expecting when medical marijuana comes around," she said. "Just because the state voted it in, it's not something that people" should be under the influence of and come to work.

Sitton said she received feedback from a local company for which OccuMed provided the goggles for a recent safety training, and the supervisor said staff members were still talking about how they felt using the devices.

"Being able to actually put yourself into that position with the goggles helps them to understand" the dangers of impairment, she said.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.