In just one month, cannabis will become legal to use across Canada. The change creates challenges for employers tasked with preserving a safe workplace, particularly for contractors. On-Site Magazine has written on the steps contractors can take to ensure workplace safety once cannabis is legal. We’ve summarized the main points below.
1. Know Your Provincial Laws on Cannabis in the Workplace
The law on cannabis in the workplace will vary in different provinces. Cannabis will remain prohibited in Ontario workplaces, but other provinces may allow employees to smoke cannabis wherever they are allowed to smoke cigarettes.
2. Update Your Workplace Drug and Alcohol Policy
Existing policies may not adequately account for the reality of legal cannabis. For example, unlike alcohol, there’s no established limit as to how much cannabis it takes to cause impairment. It can also be more difficult to detect impaired employees. Contractors should work with their lawyer to develop new, comprehensive policies regarding drug and alcohol on the job.
3. Accommodate Medical Cannabis
Contractors have obligations under various provincial Human Rights Codes, which includes a duty to accommodate employees who have a right to use cannabis for medical reasons. This duty may require employer to offer an alternative job for workers who will be using cannabis in the workplace. Your workplace drug and alcohol policy must account for this possibility.
4. Educate Employees
There is less public awareness about the impact of cannabis on a person’s reaction time and alertness, which could lead employees to believe they can safely work while impaired. In reality, cannabis use poses serious risks when it comes to working with heavy equipment or working at heights. Previous working at heights training information employees received may not have prepared them for this.
As always, contractors must ensure workers who need classroom training for working at heights receive this training before there are allowed on a job site.
5. Lead by Example
It’s up to contractors and their supervisors to enforce the rules in place. Supervisors should lead by example by refusing to consume drugs or alcohol during or before work hours. There should also be a zero tolerance policy for cannabis impairment on a job site (with the exception of medical cannabis) since existing occupational health and safety laws will continue to prohibit employees from being impaired.