Know drug and alcohol policies
Employers updating drug and alcohol policies
The science on cannabis is advancing,
but is still not settled. This poses a big
challenge to employers who want to
make sure their workplaces are safe.
The federal government has set
penalties for drivers based on the
amount of cannabis in their bloodstream
(see sidebar, page 37). But the debate is
fierce over whether those levels actually
mean a person is impaired. Canada has
opted to use guidelines developed for
the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Some people have challenged the science
Is there a safer way to use cannabis?
Guidelines contain 10 recommendations, including
abstinence, using less often and choosing non-smoking
methods. For more information, go to camh.ca and
search for “lower-risk cannabis use guidelines.”
As a result, “A lot of these cases,
unfortunately, will be settled in court,”
says Cara Zwibel, director of the
Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s
Fundamental Freedoms Program.
“The absence of science makes it
In fact, Chuck Rifici, CEO of cannabis
industry investment firm Cannabis
Wheaton Income, recently said he
would commit up to $25,000 to fund
a court challenge.
Employers in Alberta must have
alcohol and drug policies. Employees
are expected to know and comply with
those policies. Testing for substances
may reduce risk, especially in safety-sensitive workplaces using heavy
equipment. But it also raises concerns
over a person’s right to privacy, unlawful
discrimination and what is a reasonable
use of management rights.
Random testing is hotly debated,
because critics say it violates a person’s
right to privacy.
Murray Elliott, president of Energy
Safety Canada (ESC), argues random
testing is a reasonable way to prevent
potential tragedy. “Employers need to
have every tool in the toolkit.”
Employers need to go with the best
available science, even if it is open to
challenge, Elliott says.
“We need some limits out there,”
he says. “Without those, we’re going to
have absolute chaos.”
In Colorado, legalization of non-
medical cannabis led to an uptick in
usage, but the increase slowed down
over time, says Paula Campkin, vice
president and chief safety officer for ESC.
ESC and the Construction Owners
Association of Alberta (COAA) are
writing a model drug and alcohol policy,
Campkin says. It will be published by
early fall and will include new forms of
testing, such as oral or urine tests. They
expect companies across the province
will adopt the policy.
“It’s a reality that there’s a cost burden
associated with this,” says Elliott. “But
we believe impaired workers need to be
removed from the workplace until they
are no longer impaired.”|a
For more information, see ESC’s current
model. Go to enform.ca and click on the
Resources link near the top of the page,
and then click on “View our resource
Find the COAA’s current guidelines at
coaa.ab.ca. Search for “Canadian model.”