Even though we have passed the much anticipated October 17th, 2018 date, when recreational cannabis use has become legal in Canada, the conversation continues about the impact this will have on workplace safety. Unfortunately, we can't predict how things will change at work now that recreational cannabis is legal.
What we do know is that working while impaired is a hazard for both the impaired worker and the workers around them, and we know that investing in an effective impairment policy can help to create and reinforce a strong safety culture.
We developed our latest social media campaign to focus on the ins and outs of impairment at work. What does a strong impairment policy look like and how should existing policies change to accommodate the new laws?
The good news is that many Manitoban employers already have impairment policies. And for many of these employers, changes to existing impairment policies and procedures may be very minimal. Regardless of whether you're starting your impairment policy from scratch or making minor revisions, we've created resources to help you get started.
What comes next?
Creating a strong impairment policy is just one step in the process however. To be an effective prevention tool, a safety and health policy should never just sit on the office shelf. The best policies are created when employers and workers collaborate. It's not just about enforcing rules. Safety-minded employers make policies accessible and regularly review them with workers. Workers who are unclear about policies should take the time to ask questions and clarify concerns with a supervisor or their employer to make sure they know what is expected of them.
We encourage all Manitoba employers to review your impairment policy with staff this week or next while the topic of cannabis legalization is at the height of everyone's awareness.
Keep the door open
Because we are talking about impairment in the context of recreational cannabis becoming legal in Canada, our resources focus on impairment caused by drugs or alcohol, although impairment can happen for a number of different reasons. Effective policies will not focus exclusively on the consequences for “coming to work high," however; an effective policy does need to address this topic.
It is especially important that everyone in the workplace understands the signs and symptoms of impairment and the procedures to follow if they encounter someone who is impaired including steps to take in case of emergency.
It's also important that people know what to do if they are the ones who are impaired. Creating a thriving safety culture is about encouraging ongoing communication between workers and employers so that everyone benefits. Part of that is helping workers to feel safe coming forward if they think they are impaired. Although consequences may be necessary in some circumstances, encouraging workers to come forward can actually help to reduce potential hazards created when workers try to hide impairment because they are afraid of negative consequences.
While some employers are eager to update their policies and procedures, others may feel reluctant. What about the statistics? How can we create a policy without first knowing exactly what the problems are going to be? Are there going to be any changes at all? Why bother changing our policies now if we're just going to have to update them a year from now once we know more?
While these are all valid concerns, a positive safety culture exists when a set of shared values and beliefs about workplace safety and health influences and drives practices for preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. Regardless of the personal choices that people make when recreational cannabis becomes legal, we know that Manitobans expect safety and health in the workplace. Taking a proactive approach by clarifying your workplace impairment policy is a valuable step in reinforcing your workplace's safety culture.
For tools and resources to help you revise your Impairment Policy, check out https://www.safemanitoba.com/Campaigns/Pages/Impairment-in-the-Workplace.aspx
Follow Jamie Hall on Twitter at @SAFEWorkJamie.