Drug and Alcohol Policies in the Workplace

Posted in: Accident Prevention,Safety | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on March 17, 2017

If the government holds true to it’s word, despite the controversy, marijuana could be legal in Canada by National Marijuana Day, April 20th. Whether you agree or not, the reality of the legalization of cannabis can not be ignored nor can the impact this may have on the workplace.

Does the legalization of marijuana change the concept of a ‘smoke break’ or a ‘two martini lunch’? What about company social functions? Workplace alcohol and drug testing? An employer’s obligation for tolerance and what recourse do they have?

It is well documented that the risk of accident and injury increases dramatically when associated with the use of, and/or intoxication from alcohol or drugs, either prescribed, legal or otherwise. The health and safety of everyone in the workplace can be affected by a single person’s behaviour while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Beyond the obvious medical impact that an accident or injury can have, there can be a tremendous impact financially on employers due to loss of personnel, loss of productivity and increased costs associated with workers’ compensation claims when a worker is injured on the job.

So now, more than ever, an effective drug and alcohol policy is an essential part of any organization’s Health and Safety Management Program.

Most employers already have policies in place to address issues related to the use drug and alcohol in the workplace and those that don’t should seriously consider implementing one for their own protection.

In Alberta there are human rights laws surrounding drug and alcohol use in the workplace. There is advice available for employers from Alberta Health Services regarding appropriate drug and alcohol testing on the job and resources for drug/alcohol policy development and employee testing.

The Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board’s Policy 02-01, Part II, Application 5 addresses the impact of a worker’s actions while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, in terms of whether there is an acceptable claim or not. While it may seem pretty straightforward, the process of determining whether someone has removed themselves from the course of their employment at the time of an accident can be complicated and complex.

All of this can seem overwhelming but it is with cool heads and common sense that we should proceed with addressing the proposed new marijuana laws rather than knee jerk reactions or burying our heads in the sand.

The potential imminent changes to the marijuana laws in Canada provide an unique opportunity for every employer to review, update or establish an effective alcohol and drug policy that will ensure the safety and protection of all employees. It is an excellent occasion to introduce or reacquaint every worker with company expectations of behaviour and consequences of policy violations. So don’t get caught up in the controversy, use this time to make sure you have adequately addressed substance use and abuse for your organization.

If you would like to discuss the importance of alcohol and drug policies further, you can reach us via email at [email protected], [email protected], contact us directly, during business hours, using our chat feature or by phone, at 1-844-377-9545 and you can always connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.

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