How to deal with impairment in the workplace

It's been over a year since the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act was passed

How to deal with impairment in the workplace

It’s been over a year since the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act was passed, making marijuana legal in Canada. But how has the legalisation impacted Canadian workplaces, employers, and their employees?

HRD Canada spoke to John Aird, manager, strategic partnerships at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), to uncover what legal responsibilities Ontario employers have when it comes to cannabis at work.

“Medical cannabis access falls within the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR),” prefaced Aird.

“Medical access has been legal since 1999 as a therapeutic treatment. Employers have a legal duty to assess each situation to determine the effect on the workplace and the possibility of fulfilling the duty to accommodate the individual. It is the disability that must be accommodated – not the employee.

“Each province/jurisdiction has issued regulations to define where cannabis can be consumed. In Ontario the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018 was passed October 17, 2018. This revised the Smoke Free Ontario Act, expanding where cannabis can be consumed. Cannabis cannot be consumed in enclosed workplaces as well as by individuals having control of a vehicle or boat. A zero-tolerance approach for youth, novice and commercial drivers with penalties for consumption and impairment have been enacted under the Highway Traffic Act. If your business has employees who travel as a condition of the job, the employer has responsibilities to ensure employees are adhering to the legal requirements and to clearly define in policy the responsibilities and consequences of being found operating a vehicle while impaired.  

“The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that employers take all measures reasonable under the circumstances to ensure the safety of employees and the people they work with. The employees themselves have a responsibility to not put themselves or others at risk and to follow the safe work procedures of the workplace.”

It's a best practice to have measures in place which explain how employers should act if they suspect an employee is under the influence of marijuana. Having a clear drug and alcohol policy in your organization is practically mandatory – it also sets the right tone for new hires coming into the company.

So, if you as an employer suspect that one of your people is impaired at work – what actions should you take?

Well, according to Aird, it begins with assessing the risks involved.

“Set and communicate clear expectations in policy for arriving to work fit for duty and prohibiting coming to work impaired, and detail the responsibilities of different workplace parties,” he continued.

Then, define the responsibilities and procedures that should follow – and be sure to train any managers in these practices.

“High risk jobs such as operating heavy equipment and vehicles or working as first responders or positions where an incorrect decision or response could have severe consequences for others may require more robust controls to ensure employees are fit for duty. These controls can include drug testing,” added Aird.

Visit for more information and helpful resources on workplace health and safety.

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