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Fit for duty: how one company responded to legalized cannabis

Legalized cannabis

Before the federal government legalized the recreational use of cannabis in October 2018, Black & McDonald Limited was already taking a hard look at its drug and alcohol policy. Black & McDonald Limited is a large, Canadian multi-trade contractor. Over 3,000 employees work out of more than 20 offices in Canada alone. Most employees spend their days on client sites, often in safety-sensitive positions. 

Taking pride in its ability for staff to perform work safely under this new landscape, Black & McDonald faced a challenge: ensuring employees' fitness for duty when there is no recognized means of measuring impairment.

The solution: update the drug and alcohol policy to reflect the new reality and undertake a comprehensive training and education program. 

Ray Pleasance, Black & McDonald's Corporate Director of OH&S, described some of the steps taken to delegates attending "Cannabis Legalization - Six Months In," a panel session at WSPS' recent Partners in Prevention 2019 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show. Among the steps:

  • Preparing and presenting a plan to the senior management team. Part of the presentation involved a Q&A session with cannabis authority Dan Demers, Senior Manager, Strategic Business Development, CannAmm Occupational Testing Services. "The senior management team expressed a lot of concern about being able to maintain a safe workplace in this environment," noted Pleasance.
  • Refining the drug and alcohol policy's fitness for duty definition. "In our world, fit for duty means a state - physical, mental and emotional - that allows the individual to perform an assigned task confidently and in a manner that doesn't compromise or threaten the safety or health of that individual or others."
  • Establishing a process for accommodating medical and recreational use of cannabis. i.e. use related to therapeutic needs and disability due to substance dependence.
  • Updating safety-sensitive role determinations. "These positions depend on alertness, quickness of response, soundness of judgment, the accuracy of coordination of multiple muscle functions, and have a direct role in the operation where the inappropriate performance of task could result in harm to oneself, co-workers, patients, property, or the environment."
  • Delivering intensive training on fit for duty requirements to the company's safety professionals and HR staff.
  • Providing senior management and all supervisory staff with recognition training on fit for duty requirements.
  • Developing an internal eLearning program for all staff.
  • Conducting regional meetings with all staff on their responsibilities and accountabilities in the context of fitness for duty. 

"We feel that we've set up a solid platform that’s fair and defensible," Pleasance told delegates. "Everybody is aware of their own responsibilities to support the system we've put in place."

"We don't stand here with rose-coloured glasses saying that people aren't using it recreationally within our workplace, but we have created a clear understanding of our expectations with regard to maintaining fitness for duty. As we continue to evolve our safety culture, we all need to share a role in building a strong safety culture that's proactive and sets our workforce up for continued success."

How we can help your workplace respond to legalized cannabis

WSPS has a range of prevention resources related to workplace impairment from cannabis use. Among them: