Canadian Agency Publishes White Paper on Cannabis and Impairment in the Workplace

Published November 8, 2017

​The sale and use of recreational cannabis is scheduled to become legal in Canada on or before July 1, 2018. In anticipation of this new legislation, Canada’s agency for the advancement of workplace health and safety has published a white paper intended to help workplaces prepare for potential occupational safety challenges associated with cannabis and impairment. The white paper, “Workplace Strategies: Risk of Impairment from Cannabis,” was authored by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and is intended to be used as guidance by employers, workers, and others interested in workplace health and safety. CCOHS provides information and recommendations on addressing the potential for impairment as part of hazard assessments, establishing policies and programs on the use of any substance that can cause impairment, and determining the actions workplaces can take regarding impairment. The agency also discusses how to implement accommodation practices where necessary, including therapeutic needs and substance dependence. 

“The key issue around the legalization of cannabis for the workplace is impairment,” said Gareth Jones, president and CEO of CCOHS. “It’s important that we understand the impact impairment can have on workplace safety and be able to respond effectively.”

The white paper outlines the impairment effects of cannabis use, which may include dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation, confusion, impairment of motor skills, worsening of dermatitis or hives, nausea, vomiting, and fast heartbeat. CCOHS urges employers to reduce the impact of impairment on the workplace by establishing appropriate controls and measures, including concise workplace policies, and to address safety-sensitive positions. If a worker is showing signs of impairment, it may be necessary to ask the employee to stop work or assign them a non-safety sensitive position, CCOHS notes.

The white paper does not address potential health and safety concerns for individuals who manufacture or sell cannabis. See the CCOHS website for more information.

Related: An article published in the May 2017 Synergist discusses personal protective equipment for workers in the emerging cannabis industry.