Supervisors- Are You Qualified To Say Your Workers Are Impaired?

Oct 29, 2018 Opinion


With the changes in Ontario regarding the legalizing of cannabis, there are a lot of questions about people taking cannabis and working. I am surprised to hear that most people were not aware that you could get cannabis in gummy bears, chocolate and baked goods. How can you tell if someone had a few pot cookies before going to work?


What would you do if a worker came into work and they smelled like they just smoked a joint? We know we must address it, at least we know we should. I believe that a lot of supervisors will not do anything about it because they don’t know what they should be doing? Just saying you have to look into it isn’t good enough. If a supervisor suspects a worker to be impaired by either drugs or alcohol, is it company policy to have that person be sent home?

What if that worker is asking why are they being sent home? Are you going to say “you smell like you were smoking a joint, and for that reason we are sending you home because we can’t take that chance that you may be high”. If you send that person home because they smell, that could be seen as discrimination – You can’t send people home because they smell. If you tell them that you are sending them home because you think they may be high, what if that person asks the question “what qualifies you to make that determination that I’m high?” How would you answer that question?

We are seeing companies developing “Drug and Alcohol Policies and Procedures”. I believe the policies and procedures should be more focused on “Impairment At Work”. You would address the use of drugs, both prescribed and recreational, as well as alcohol and being tired and fatigued. You should also have elements in your procedures that will address how you will investigate possible impairments. Part of that investigation should have something other than a hunch that someone could be impaired. Businesses need to back up their assumptions of impairment, if they are wrong or cannot show evidence that a person is actually impaired, they could open themselves for huge liability.

Supervisors and managers can gather evidence that a person may be impaired if they know what they are looking for and they are making good notes.

Supervisors and managers are not expected to be subject matter experts on Impairment, they may be able to determine if a person is impaired and not fit for duty, but they have no way of proving that a worker is actually impaired. They cannot make a demand for a blood or urine test like the police can do. Our Safety Laws trump the need to prove impairment by saying that an employer “must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers”.

Supervisors need to be deemed “competent” to make the determination that a worker is not fit for duty.

Industrial Safety Trainers, CPO approved training providers, is now offering a “Reasonable Suspicion” certificate course for employers and supervisors. This course educates participants in how to recognize and investigate possible impairment situations. Don’t make assumptions that workers may be impaired, make your decisions based on training, knowledge and experience.

Our Reasonable Suspicion course is taught by retired OPP Police Officers that have years of experience assessing people for impairment.

For more information Click Here


Randy Dignard
Industrial Safety Trainers Inc.

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