One in five employees didn’t have any cannabis training, with only a third of organizations saying they will directly provide those materials
About 60 percent of surveyed workplaces are worried about how cannabis will affect safety on the job, but don’t have zero-tolerance policies in effect, notes a recent report.
The study released this August by the Conference Board of Canada surveyed 163 employers between November 2018 and January 2019 to understand how they prepared for and are managing pot legalization.
Roughly two out of three companies polled felt ready for legalization, but were still uneasy.
“They are particularly concerned about workplace safety increased risk of accidents, impairment at work and employee mental health,” reads the report.
In all, 58 percent of companies surveyed were “concerned” about the potential impact of cannabis on workplace safety. And that number grew to 68 percent for organizations with more than 5,000 people.
This was highlighted by one finding that almost half of ‘highly safety-sensitive’ industries—workplaces like transportation, warehousing, construction and manufacturing—did not have a zero-tolerance policy for pot.
Monica Haberl, a senior research associate in human resources with the conference board, said she expected the results because of the legal haze around regulating pot at work.
“Some organizations feel really strongly they can justify the zero-tolerance policy, especially if workers are in safety-critical positions like in construction or manufacturing, but there’s also a risk to putting a zero-tolerance in place because there’s no legislation around this,” Haberl said.
“Unions or other organizations could approach them and say they’re violating the human rights of the worker or their privacy rights and what they do on their own time. Not every organization is willing to put their neck out there, even if they feel it’s the right course of action for the safety of their employers,” she said.
Seventy percent of organizations polled indicated they have a fit-for-duty policy regarding the use of cannabis, but 78 percent had no definition for how much weed a worker had to smoke to be considered ‘impaired’ and 60 percent didn’t have a definition for any kind of ‘impairment.’
Haberl said that a fit-for-duty policy is a catch-all for drug use. “It’s less about a number and more about coming to work where they are physically, cognitively and psychologically fit,” she said.
“It’s extremely challenging, especially for employees, to understand the concept of impairment when there isn’t an explicit definition. One of the reasons there is no definition is because there isn’t enough scientific information yet,” Haberl said.
In the report, one in five employees did not receive any cannabis education and training, with only a third of organizations reporting they will directly provide employees with those materials.
Haberl finds the data surprising and said workplaces can easily play a fundamental role in teaching workers about cannabis without spending too much money or using “scare tactics” that can backfire.
“99 percent of people don’t want to go to work impaired, but there are risks that if someone doesn’t have the right understanding of the drug and its impacts, they could put themselves and colleagues in a dangerous situation,” she said.
“Because the data on what amount of cannabis is impairing is still quite sticky and because there are still challenges related to privacy- and human rights-related cannabis use, it could really be beneficial for governments to put in legislation or guidelines for organizations on how to implement testing.”
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Written by Bobby Hristova