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How to respond if you believe a worker is impaired or high at work

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This blog  is where Onsite Safety Management strives to offer up to date information on all aspects of workplace safety. 

How to respond if you believe a worker is impaired or high at work

Onsite Safety Management Inc.

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So you’re suspicious that a worker may be high on the job.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the federal legalization of marijuana recently and for employers everywhere we can see why this is an important topic. Most workplaces are now receiving information and documents concerning the policy of their company concerning recreational cannabis use. Key points in these policies usually center around responsible use and reminders that performing work duties while impaired is always forbidden. Ultimately it’s important to remember to treat cannabis just as you would alcohol. Know the effects of intake and plan accordingly.

How to Approach the Worker

So what should you do as a co-worker or a supervisor if you do suspect someone is impaired on the job?

According to Jan Chappel, senior technical specialist at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, as the employer you have the duty to respond.

Don’t Accuse or Diagnose

Your concern shouldn’t feel like an accusation or diagnosis. Instead you should confront the employee regarding safe work practices and try to point out any actions that could be a result of suspected impairment.

You can also frame your question as a check up, “just making sure everything is okay, you seem a little distracted.”. It’s probably not your professional position to be looking for cause. Instead you simply need to let the worker know that you’ve noticed a difference in their performance.

Safety First

It is important to remember that impairment on a worksite is an issue of safety and should be treated as such. It is also best to approach the situation as a means to support a fellow co-worker and not to be accusatory or demeaning.

Medical Use

There are situations where the use of cannabis could have started for medical reasons but a dependency has developed out of that. In that situation it is important to encourage the worker to see a counselor or physician and the employer is to work with the situation as you might with workplace disease. There will be a return to work plan if any time off is necessary.