The Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Impairment in the Workplace (2019) has been used as a guide in the following section.1
Individuals who use potentially intoxicating and addictive substances may progress along this spectrum. It’s critical to understand that substance use is not the same as having a substance use disorder (commonly known as addiction). Substance use, however, can be both beneficial and problematic.
Although many regularly used intoxicants should be considered (i.e., alcohol, stimulants, hallucinogens), the focus of this report will be on cannabis, and primarily medical cannabis.
What is impairment?
Impairment can arise from a variety of factors, including fatigue, traumatic shock, sleep deprivation, as well as from medical conditions or treatments, all of which have the potential to impair a person’s ability to perform their work.
Potential implications of Impairment
Impairment could potentially have the following implications:
– Diminished judgement or decision-making|
– Decreased motor coordination, reaction time or perception
The appearance of impairment (depending on the substance) may include the following observations:
– Odour of alcohol or drugs
– Glassy or red eyes
– Unsteady gait
– Poor co-ordination
To ensure that medical cannabis is treated equally with other prescriptions, a clear definition of ‘impairment’ should be established, and all prescription medicine policies should be enforced equally.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction defines safety-sensitive positions as:
“Organizations or positions where impaired employee performance could result in a significant incident affecting the health and safety of the individual, other employees, customers or the public, or could cause property damage”.2
A definition of a safety-sensitive position must be included in the organizational impairment policy.
Being ‘fit for duty’
‘Fit for duty’ is defined as an employee’s ability to be able to do their job safely and effectively without impairment. Organizations should define ‘fit for duty’ in their own terms within their policies, which will vary depending on the needs of the workplace, and the role of the employees.
Suspected problematic substance use in the workplace
Problematic substance use in the workplace can raise several concerns such as absenteeism, lower productivity, increased costs, and safety concerns.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction believes that addressing substance use in the workplace through comprehensive, well-developed policies sends the message that substance use and its possible implications are serious concerns. Strong policies also show that the company is committed to preventing impairment in the workplace, stigma, and discrimination, as well as assisting employees in their recovery.3
Accommodations in the workplace
Organizations may be required to prevent and move barriers and must provide accommodations for individuals that have a disability, short of undue hardship. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), an employee has the right to be accommodated to the point of undue hardship if they are prescribed medication that may cause impairment because of a medical condition.4
The accommodation is made on an individual, case-by-case basis to fit the employee’s needs, with no preferences. If two accommodations that respond equally to the employee’s needs in a dignified manner are available, the employer has the right to choose the one that is less expensive or disruptive to the organization.5
With regards to accommodating medical cannabis, considerations may include:
1. Concerns related to cannabis scents
2. Permitted places of consumption
3. The impact of consumption on clients