Preparing workplaces for the legalization of marijuana

The recreational use of marijuana is likely to be legal in Canada by this time next year. To help prepare workplaces for the implications, the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has released a White Paper with useful, practical information and recommendations for employers, employees and others interested in workplace health and safety.

Implications on workplace driving

While the Paper doesn’t specifically address the implications of marijuana use on workplace driving, it does state there is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis smoking and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. It also states that Canada already has one of the highest usage rates in the world, and that more people may use it when it is legalized. This may mean more employees under the influence in the workplace. However, unlike alcohol, there is no roadside breathalyzer-type test to detect impairment.

How to deal with the issue

So how can employers tackle the issue? The Paper recommends they use the same methods they use to address other types of substance use such as alcohol and medications, legal or not. Employers should:

  • develop a substance-use policy jointly with labour, including the health and safety committee, that addresses the issue of workplace impairment
  • define what impairment is within their workplace and use job safety analysis to identify the risk associated with each job position and how it may be affected by impairment
  • provide training to supervisors and employees on the impact of impairment, and how to recognize and respond to possible signs of impairment no matter the source
  • clearly indicate the organization’s position regarding employee use and possession of substances that can cause impairment while at work
  • have a clearly defined policy that outlines the criteria for impairment and test procedures

The Paper also lists elements that a substance-use policy should include as well as a sample policy, and a sample substance-use incident report. At the end, there are lists of references and websites to find more information.

Small investment, big return

All told, the Paper packs a lot of valuable information into its 31 pages. For any organization concerned about the implications of the legalization of marijuana on the health and safety of its employees, it is well worth a read.

CCOHS White Paper – Workplace Strategies: Risk of Impairment from Cannabis

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Preparing workplaces for the legalization of marijuana