Blog Post #1410 – Coping with Substance Use in the Canadian Workplace – Part Two

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.

Recognizing Impairment and When to Come Forward

Substance-related impairment My look different for each person, but it often manifests in glassy or red eyes, slurred speech, unsteadiness or poor co-ordination, or the odor of alcohol or cannabis.

An impaired person’s judgement, alertness, depth perception, and emotional state may impact their ability to work safely or make safety-sensitive decisions.

The after-effects of substance use, such as hangover, withdrawal, depression, or absenteeism can also affect job performance. Intervention is required if the employee is unable to perform their job safely of if their judgement or cognitive ability is impacted.

Note that it is not the role of the supervisor or manager to diagnose substance use or addiction, only to recognize impairment and respond according to the organization’s policies.

These steps may involve speaking to the employee in a private area to discuss their behaviour with one witness present, emphasizing that the concern is about safety for others and themselves and inviting the employee to explain what is going on.

Based on the employee’s response, discuss the available options, and follow the steps outlined in your organization’s program.

State your concerns in an unbiased and factual manner. Do not place blame or make assumptions. Be clear that the intent is to maintain a safe working environment and that the organization is concerned for their well-being.

Try to anticipate the employee’s reaction so that you can be prepared. Identify any consequences and what steps must be taken.

In some cases, it may be necessary to assign non-safety sensitive work or to ask the employee to stop working. Arrange for a safe ride home. Do not let an impaired employee drive. And if applicable, notify senior management or a union representative.

My opinion

I am very excited about this report. The 3rd report will be issued in a few days. 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



1 thought on “Blog Post #1410 – Coping with Substance Use in the Canadian Workplace – Part Two”

Leave a Comment