Blog Post #1409 – Coping with Substance Use in the Canadian Workplace – Part One

Report from the OH&S Canada magazine (Sept. 2021)

Original Report from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety


Canada’s legalization of cannabis in 2018 sparked a national conversation on substance use and the stigmas surrounding addiction.

As the conversation evolves, employers should review their policies and guidelines around substance use and educate their employees about the risks of working while impaired.

In doing so, they will create environments where workers feel safe and supported when asking for help.

To ensure these policies and guidelines are effective, it’s important to be aware of substance use in the workplace, and what the workplace can do to address possible impairment.

Exploring the Data Behind Substance Abuse

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario, an estimated 21% of Canadians will meet the threshold for substance addiction during their lifetime.

Showing employees how to recognize and reports the signs of impairment in the workplace and giving them the confidence to ask for help with substance use is crucial to reducing the risk of injuries and even fatalities for themselves and fellow workers.

Stress, fatigue, and injuries are some of the most common factors leading to substance use in the workplace. Other factors that can play a role can include repetitive duties, isolation, lack of opportunity to advance, high demand and low control over work, and long hours or irregular shifts.

Opioids, Cannabis in the Workplace

Cannabis and opioids are among the substances most frequently used in the workplace.

Opioids are prescribed to manage pain, including pain from injuries sustained at work. However, opioids can cause euphoria (feeling of being high), which increases the potential for the drugs to be used improperly.

According to the Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms Scientific Working Group (2020) report: 2015-2017 report, In Canada, the cost of lost productivity from disability, absenteeism, and other effects of opioid use was $4.25 billion in 2017.

The short-term side effects of opioids include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, euphoria, difficulty breathing, headaches, dizziness, and confusion. These effects may cause impairment and affect the ability to do jobs safely.

People working in construction, healthcare and other physically demanding jobs experience a higher rate of injuries that often require pain management. This situation can leave workers vulnerable to dependence on opioids.

Employers should look for ways to prevent physical injuries from occurring in the first place. Educate workers on musculoskeletal disorders and back injuries to help them avoid movements likely to cause those injuries and let them know when a supervisor needs to be alerted to an unsafe environment or task.

In office environments and manufacturing, train employees on ergonomics and avoiding fatigue to help reduce the risks of injuries for which opioids might be prescribed.

Though the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis is legal – like alcohol, it can affect judgement, co-ordination, and the ability to think clearly.

Policies around impairment in the workplace should include cannabis, and workers should receive clear and regular communication about why cannabis -related impairment risks both their own safety and the safety of those around them.

My opinion

I am very excited about this report. The 2nd half will be issued tomorrow. I hope you enjoy.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Canada, “All accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

CHSEP – Advanced Level

CEO and Training Director




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