Almost 12 months have passed since the federal government legalized the recreational use of cannabis. If your workplace is like most, you've updated your substance abuse policy and program to include "employee fitness for duty." In this context, fit for duty means an employee is able to safely perform assigned duties without any limitations resulting from the use or after-effects of drugs, alcohol, and/or medications.
But creating a policy and program - and letting everyone in the workplace know about them - is not the same as ensuring compliance. This responsibility often falls to supervisors because they're well positioned to notice or be informed of a possible problem.
Larry Masotti, WSPS' Director, Strategic Relationships, has been helping companies adapt to this new environment since the federal government announced its plans to legalize recreational use of cannabis. WSPS eNews asked Larry if he had any suggestions for supervisors. Here's what he told us.
- Understand what cannabis impairment looks like. "Impairment affects our ability to concentrate and can cause dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation, confusion and other effects", says Larry. "Any of these effects can compromise performance and safety."
- Communicate and reinforce your workplace's fit for duty policy and program. Discuss key components in your safety talks, including limitations on cannabis consumption. For instance, many workplaces with designated safety-sensitive positions prohibit off-duty cannabis use for 30 days before being on duty.
- Expand cannabis conversations to include other causes of impairment - The legalization of recreational cannabis opens the door to conversations on other potential causes of impairment, such as stress, family trauma, money troubles, personal or work relationships, workplace or personal arguments, fatigue, and mental or physical Illness.
- Know how to approach an employee who may be impaired. Symptoms of impairment include an inability to concentrate, dizziness or drowsiness, disorientation and confusion. "These symptoms could also be caused by something else, such as a medical condition or fatigue", says Larry. "The intent is to approach an employee in a non-judgmental manner. 'You don't seem yourself today. Is everything okay?' This begins an open-ended conversation."
- Report your concern, following steps established by the employer. Consider asking the employee to stop their work or assign non-safety sensitive work.
- Document the incident. For example, include any preceding events, unsafe work practices, what was discussed with the employee, a list of all actions taken, and any recommendations made to the employee. "That's how we protect all parties. It could become a legal situation in the future, or a precedent-setting situation that leads to a process change."
- Know what support is available from others in the organization. At what point might a human resources or health and safety professional get involved?
- Know what other sorts of support or accommodation may be available to the worker, such as an employee assistance program or a community-based support group.
How WSPS can help