Recreational use of cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17, 2018. AgSafe, British Columbia’s agriculture health and safety association, is helping industry employers understand the implications of the legislation for their workplace health and safety programs.
AgSafe assures employers that basic health and safety program principles regarding impairment in the workplace still apply and recommends that employers focus on impairment and safety, rather than the individual’s use.
Impairment is the diminished ability of an individual to function or behave in a usual or safe manner. An individual’s response and response time to THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, varies based on the amount consumed, method of consumption, and metabolism.
AgSafe BC executive director, Wendy Bennett says, “An employee must be fit for work. The worker cannot be impaired at work, or pose a safety risk to themselves, co-workers or the public.”
Employers have a duty to inquire about impairment in certain situations. If the employee puts their safety or the safety of others at risk; there is a motor vehicle safety incident or near miss; or the individual’s performance is having other serious impacts on co-workers.
An employer must not knowingly permit an employee to remain at any workplace while that person’s ability to work is affected by alcohol, a drug or other substance, and endangering the safety of the individual or anyone else.
As with all employee-related interactions, if impairment is suspected the priority should be on the safety of the individual and others rather than the impairment. It is important to follow policy and procedures respectfully, fairly and with unbiased treatment of all individuals.
A pro-active health and safety program should have a solid foundation in basic workplace health and safety protocols, but allow for variables within the context of addressing cannabis impairment.
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