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A 6 step guide to managing the risk of impairment

Cannabis plant

The legalization of recreational cannabis has given new life to an ongoing workplace concern: how to reduce the risk of impairment. Acute effects include diminished mental alertness, physical coordination, reaction time, sustained vigilance, manual dexterity and judgment — all essential requirements for working safely and productively, says WSPS Consultant Kristin Oronato.

Most workplaces already have a drug and alcohol policy prohibiting substance use. “That’s a great starting point,” continues Kristin. “You could use that foundation to manage impairment from many sources, including cannabis, over the counter and prescription drug use, stress and fatigue.” Kristin offers the following six steps to manage impairment.

  1. Update or conduct fresh hazard assessments to include impairment. “This requires having a clear understanding of which positions are considered safety sensitive.
  2. Develop a workplace impairment policy that
    • defines impairment.
    • defines fitness for work and requires employees to be fit for work.
    • outlines the consequences, up to and including termination, for anyone not fit for work.
    • includes supports for any employee struggling with addiction.
  3. Train all employees on the signs of impairment, the risks, and the company’s policy. “Make sure that people understand what impairment in the workplace is, what fit for duty is and what safety sensitive positions are. This helps everyone understand what’s expected of them.”
  4. Develop and communicate procedures for identifying, reporting and removing impaired employees from the workplace. “Create an environment in which employees feel safe and comfortable bringing personal concerns forward. Perhaps they’re taking medication that might make them impaired, or they believe a co-worker may be impaired and is a hazard to themselves and others.”
  5. Determine how you will accommodate employees who disclose substance use, in line with human rights legislation. “Employees need to know they are required to inform the employer. Then the employer can devise an appropriate response, such as implementing modified or return to work programs, and connecting the employee with internal and external supports, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), community agencies and local health units.”
  6. Train supervisors on how to identify and respond to work-related impairment. Correctly identifying impairment is the first step in taking preventive action.

How WSPS can help you address impairment

Our consultants are available to

  • work with you on creating or revising policies and procedures.
  • provide guidance on how to address the potential risk for impairment as part of a hazard/risk assessment.