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Industry Voices Op-Ed: Impairment in the workplace — What you need to know

Industry Voices Op-Ed: Impairment in the workplace — What you need to know

As a worker or employer, you may be wondering about the changes that will occur in your workplace as a result of the recent legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17.

Laws and regulations to manage this situation are already in place in B.C. and have been for years. At work, it’s not about the substance, it’s about the impairment.

“Impairment in the workplace isn’t a new issue in B.C., but it’s become top of mind now that cannabis is legal for recreational use,” says Tom Brocklehurst, director of prevention practices and quality at WorkSafeBC. “When it comes to impairment, workers and employers have a shared responsibility for keeping their workplaces safe.”

As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure your workers are fit for work and are not impaired by illicit or prescription drugs, alcohol or cannabis.

As a worker, you have a responsibility to be fit to perform your duties safely. It’s as important as receiving proper training or wearing the right personal protective equipment.

If you’re impaired — for any reason — you may pose a danger to yourself, your co-workers, or the general public.

Whatever the cause of impairment, the result can be serious and dangerous. Impairment can affect decision-making abilities. Physically, it can slow down reaction time, interfere with physical co-ordination and even cause changes in sensory perception, such as seeing or hearing.

“Impairment from cannabis should be treated the same as impairment by any other means,” says Brocklehurst. “This is a workplace health and safety issue — everyone deserves to go home safely at the end of the day.”

Responsibility to be fit for work

Employers and workers have a shared responsibility to be fit for work and not impaired, no matter what the job is.

Employers should include policies and procedures about impairment in their health and safety plan, and they need to clearly communicate it to workers.

Here are some points it should include:

  • Workers need to make sure their ability to work safely is not impaired by alcohol, drugs or other causes.
  • A worker who arrives onsite impaired for any reason, needs to let a supervisor or the employer know.
  • If a supervisor or employer suspects someone is unfit for work, that worker may be removed from the workplace.

We’re here to help

For resources to help you understand your responsibilities regarding impairment in the workplace, visit and search “substance use and impairment in the workplace.”

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