WorkSafeBC launches online resources addressing cannabis impairment

With the upcoming legalization of cannabis, WorkSafeBC is helping prepare employers and workers by educating them about impairment on the job with new online resources.

The focus of the new resource is not so much about enforcement or testing, but rather on the issue of assessing functional impairment, according to Tom Brocklehurst, director of prevention, practices and quality at WorkSafeBC.

“We would expect employers to think about the tasks that their workers hold and the positions they have and if impairment will cause them to make some judgment errors or some physical errors that would cause risk to themselves or others… That’s the aspect we want managed,” Brocklehurst said.

Although cannabis use and impairment in the workplace is not a new problem, legalization has employers and stakeholders feeling anxious he said.

“For a while there was maybe a sense… of panic around legalization that there would be this onslaught of cannabis coming to workplaces… we’re not entirely sure what the impact is going to be, whether that will result in more impairment or less impairment at workplaces … we just don’t know.”

Testing challenges

The challenge with testing, he said, is that unlike alcohol there’s no way to measure impairment relative to levels of the psychoactive element found in cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It just indicates that there has been consumption sometime in the past.

So their approach is “business as usual” with a push for more in depth conversations with employers to help support them in reading their workers’ capabilities.

“Being British Columbia, quite often you can smell that tangy scent in the air of cannabis and members of the public will often call us to see what we can do about that. If we do have an indication that there might be an impairment issue, ideally we’d be out there talking to the employer.”

“We’re not going to jump to enforcement right away, we’d like to see an employer that’s concerned about the issue, engaged in the issue and has some good policies and procedures in place so that there’s action taken once the issue comes up.”

WorkSafeBC launched its new online information resource on its website Tuesday.

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