WorkSafeBC raising awareness about impairment in the workplace

Richmond, B.C. (Oct. 16, 2018) — WorkSafeBC is launching an awareness campaign to educate employers and workers about impairment in the workplace, as the legalization of recreational cannabis takes effect October 17.

“Impairment in the workplace isn’t a new issue in B.C., but it’s become top of mind as cannabis becomes legal for recreational use,” said Tom Brocklehurst, Director of Prevention Practices and Quality for WorkSafeBC. “We’re reaching out to employers and workers to remind them that they share responsibility for managing impairment in the workplace.”

Under current occupational health and safety regulations, employers must:

  • Not allow a worker who is impaired for any reason — alcohol, drugs (including cannabis), or any other substance — to perform work activities that could endanger the worker or anyone else. 
  • Not allow a worker to remain at any workplace while the worker’s ability to work safely is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any other substance. 

Employers also need to make workers aware of their responsibilities, including:

  • Making sure that their ability to work safely is not impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other causes. This means showing up fit to work and remaining so throughout the work day. 
  • Not working if their impairment may endanger them, or anyone else.
  • Notifying their supervisor if their ability to work safely is impaired for any reason.

“The legalization of recreational cannabis provides a good opportunity for employers and workers to be reminded about workplace-safety policies and practices,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour and minister responsible for WorkSafeBC. “Every worker has the right to go home, safe and sound, at the end of their shift.”

WorkSafeBC is advising employers to develop policies and procedures that address impairment in the workplace. To assist, WorkSafeBC has created a guide for managing workplace impairment and developing a policy. The need for an impairment policy is even more relevant with the legalization of recreational cannabis.

“An impairment policy that takes a fit-to-work approach to impairment can help employers meet their workplace-safety obligations,” said Brocklehurst. “It’s also very important that employers clearly communicate their impairment policy to workers.”

WorkSafeBC’s awareness campaign includes online educational materials and radio ads in major markets across the province starting Oct. 22, including Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Vancouver/Lower Mainland and Victoria. Radio ads in Vancouver will include Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi languages.

WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory agency governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the provincial government. The organization serves approximately 2.4 million workers and 238,000 employers throughout British Columbia. In administering the Workers Compensation Act, the organization is accountable to the public through the provincial government.  

Additional resources:

WorkSafeBC website: Substance use and impairment in the workplace
Workplace Impairment Policy Guide: Guide to Managing Workplace Impairment and Developing an Impairment Policy
Toolbox Meeting Guide: Substance Use and Workplace Impairment
Media Backgrounder: Cannabis and the Workplace


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