What your company needs to know about impairment in the workplace

Impairment in the workplace is often a more complex issue than it initially seems. Most of us think of impairment as stemming from alcohol or drug use, but it may also be cause by prescription medicines, fatigue, exposure to extreme temperatures, or a personal crisis at home. Whatever the cause however, impairment in the workplace can negatively affect productivity, profitability, and most importantly safety.

In October 2020, the Canadian Standards Association is set to release a new standard and implementation guide for Management of Impairment in the Workplace. Once complete, these documents will be publicly available free of charge to anyone who wishes to use it.

Workplace policies

It is important that every workplace have clear policies concerning impairment, including a definition of what that means and how to respond to it. Policies regarding prescriptions, for example, should be uniform and ensure that medical cannabis is not treated differently than other forms of prescription medicine.

As an employer, ensuring the safety of your workers should be a top priority and an impaired person should be immediately removed from any duty in which their impairment may cause danger to themselves or another person.

A clear protocol should be established in the event of impairment. This may include outlining who is responsible for documentation, sending impaired employees home and arranging for transportation, and outlining how to address the incident after the fact.

Job Safety Analysis and Being Fit for Duty

In order to identify the risk level of any given duty, you can use a Job Safety Analysis as outlined by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). CCOHS recommends the following steps in conducting the analysis:

• Select the job being analysed.

• Break down the job step by step.

• Identify potential hazards.

• Determine preventative measures for each hazard.

A worker is considered “fit for duty” when they can perform the functions of their job safely and effectively without impairment. It is important that management clearly communicate what fit for duty means in relation to each job within the organization.

Suspected Substance Use on the Job

Addressing possible substance use in the workplace is essential to worker safety, but it can also be a delicate issue as there can be a number of human rights implications. The Human Rights Commission of Canada recommends that in such a situation, the employer should:

• Be respectful and compassionate.

• Ensure that any conversations with the employee about the issue are kept confidential.

• Identify any concerns about the employee’s behaviour or performance.

• Inform the employee about the employer’s duty to accommodate disabilities including addictions.

• Ask only those questions related to an employee’s need for accommodation.

• Let employee know about support programs such as EAP.

Duty to Accommodate

Just as with any disability, an employer has the duty to accommodate an employee with addictions provided that it does not cause the employer undue financial hardship. For accommodation to work however, the employee must be an active participant in the process. If the employee is unwilling, then accommodation may not be possible.

It is also important to understand that relapse is common with addictions, and the employer may have to go through the accommodation process multiple times.

If you believe you cannot accommodate an employee with addictions, it is recommended you consult with an employment lawyer on the issue to avoid finding yourself on the wrong end of a human rights claim.

Contact TeksMed today

Dealing with impairment in the workplace can be a challenge, but with the right policies and protocols in place, it can be made easier. If you would like assistance in developing your policies or you have questions, contact TeksMed today.

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