- What is impairment?
- The legal consequences
- Warning signs of impairment
- Employer tips for preventing impaired driving
- Driver tips for preventing impairment
Impaired driving is one of the leading contributors to crashes in BC. Prescription and non-prescription drugs, alcohol, and fatigue are the main causes. Knowing the warning signs can help reduce the risk. Employers and drivers have legal obligations to prevent impairment.
What is impairment?
Whether drunk, high, or over-tired, impaired drivers are hazardous. They put themselves and others at risk. They create the potential for severe injury in a crash by steering thousands of pounds of metal down a road at speeds of 100 km/h or more with diminished abilities.
Impairment reduces a driver’s mental and physical functions. It affects thinking and decision making, leading to greater risk-taking at the wheel. It also decreases reaction time and affects sensory perception.
The most common substance-related causes of impairment in the workplace are the use of:
- Illegal drugs
- Prescription drugs
- Over-the-counter medications
Mixing any combination of them can make the problem worse. Medical conditions and stress are other contributing factors.
Fatigue is also a major cause of impairment. Review our Driver Fatigue Tool Kit to learn more about warning signs and how to prevent fatigue.
The legal consequences
Impairment can result in driving suspensions and prohibitions for the driver. It may invalidate insurance policies.
In addition, workers who drive while impaired may expose their supervisor and employer to legal liability and penalties. Action may be taken under the Motor Vehicle Act, the Workers Compensation Act, civil law, and criminal law, especially if a crash injures someone.
Warning signs of impairment
Employers, supervisors, drivers, and co-workers all need to be on alert for impairment in the workplace. Warning signs and symptoms may vary from person to person.
General signs of impairment include:
- Alcohol or drug odor, glassy or red eyes, unsteady gait, slurring, poor coordination
- Reduced productivity or work quality
- Unusual or erratic behaviours, reactions, or speech
- Making unusual/frequent mistakes
- Being late for work, taking longer or more frequent breaks
Employer tips for preventing impaired driving
Employers are required to reduce or eliminate the risks of employees doing work – including driving while impaired. Creating policies, implementing procedures, and educating supervisors and employees can help fulfill an employer’s safety diligence and requirements.
Employer safety responsibilities
Employers need to identify any impaired employee and take appropriate steps to address the issue. Impaired employees can’t be assigned, or allowed, to drive. They also can’t remain at the workplace while their ability to work safely is affected by alcohol, drugs, or any other substance or condition.
These responsibilities apply whether employees drive a company vehicle or their own vehicle for work. Learn more about employer legal obligations.
Employers also need to know the responsibilities of their employees in preventing impairment on the job. It’s up to the employer to make sure workers are aware of their responsibilities and safety rights. For example, every employee has the right to refuse unsafe work, such as driving when impaired.
Creating an impairment policy
An impairment policy is highly recommended for every workplace. It should explain expectations and actions the employer will take to address impairment on the job.
Our Impairment Policy template (Word 36 KB) can be customized to any organization’s needs. Involving employees is one of the best ways to educate and keep them informed. Ask them for suggestions. Invite them to review the draft policy. Have employees sign the final version to show they understand and agree to follow it, give them a copy, and put a copy in their personnel file.
The template follows the best practice of a “fitness for duty” approach. This requires employees to start each shift fit for the work they do and to remain that way for the entire shift. It prohibits employees from performing any work while impaired. It also requires them to immediately tell their supervisor of any impairment that could present potential risk in the workplace.
When creating an impairment policy, keep in mind current occupational health and safety regulations, human rights and labour laws, and industry standards. Also keep in mind the organization’s capacity and commitment to uphold the actions described in the policy.
Get more information by reviewing WorkSafeBC’s Guide to Managing Workplace Impairment and Developing an Impairment Policy.
Commit to an annual policy review to ensure guidelines remain current and effective.
Educating your staff
Everyone who has a role or responsibility in an organization’s impairment policy is expected to follow it and to understand how it applies to them. They need to be clear about what the policy requires them to do.
Employers need to provide appropriate education and training to employees, supervisors, and managers. It can cover:
- What impairment is, its common causes, and how impairment impacts a person’s mental and physical abilities to safely do their work
- The organization’s impairment policies and procedures
- Individual roles, responsibilities, and requirements
- A confidential reporting process
- Process for assessing fitness for duty
- The investigation process
- Measures used to satisfy the employer duty to accommodate
- Support mechanisms such as employee and family assistance programs
Use WorkSafeBC’s Substance Use and Workplace Impairment Toolbox Meeting Guide for a staff discussion.
Training and supporting supervisors
Supervisors often implement and enforce an organization’s impairment policy. They also become familiar with employee habits and typical behaviours, responses, and work performance. Supervisors need to be alert for the warning signs of impairment.
Be sure to provide the training and support supervisors need to do their job. Review your policy with them and answer any questions. Walk them through a hypothetical situation or a past impairment issue so they understand what they are expected to do.
Responding to impairment
Whenever workplace impairment is suspected or reported, employers and supervisors need to take immediate action. The procedure could include some of the following steps:
- Speak to the employee privately, with another person present as a witness.
- Remove any stigma regarding substance use. State concerns about safety for the employee and others.
- Ask them to explain what is going on.
- Discuss options according to your impairment policy.
- Document the conversation and actions taken.
Review the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety impairment resources for more information.
Driver tips for preventing impairment
Employee rights and responsibilities for a safe and healthy workplace apply when driving a vehicle for work or riding in one as a passenger. When it comes to impairment, the responsibilities of a driver include:
- Not working if impairment may endanger the employee or anyone else
- Notifying a supervisor if the employee’s ability to work safely is impaired for any reason
- Notifying a supervisor if employees see a co-worker who appears to be impaired
Be fit for duty
One of the best ways for employees to prevent impairment and get home safe at the end of their shift is to show up for work fit for duty.
This means being in a physical, mental, and emotional state that allows them to perform assigned tasks competently and safely. It includes being well-rested, having their mind on task, not being distracted by other work and non-work events, and having and applying safe driving knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Employees who believe they’re not fit for duty at any time during their shift due to impairment need to notify their supervisor immediately.