Developing an Impairment Policy
How can employers manage impairment?
Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers. This includes ensuring that any worker with a physical or mental impairment is not assigned to do work where the impairment may create an undue risk to the worker or anyone else. In a workplace context, impairment means a lack of fitness to safely perform work. Although impairment can have many causes, the most common impairment issues in the workplace are impairment due to the use of alcohol or drugs (including cannabis, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or illicit drugs); and impairment due to fatigue.
Taking the following steps can help an employer to fulfill its duty to manage impairment in the workplace.
• Conduct an assessment of the tasks involved in your workplace, to identify hazards that may arise from performing those tasks while impaired.
• Take proactive steps to eliminate or minimize the risk of those hazards arising in your workplace, by putting appropriate controls in place. An Impairment Policy is a common administrative control used to minimize the risk of hazards caused by impairment in the workplace. Many workplaces already have impairment policies in the form of drug and alcohol or substance abuse policies.
• If you already have an impairment policy, you should update it to ensure it deals with both medical cannabis use (similar to prescription drug use) and non-medical/recreational cannabis use (similar to alcohol use, after October 17, 2018).
• If you don’t have an impairment policy yet, you should develop one.
• Communicate your impairment policy (whether brand new or updated) to your employees.
• Train your employees on their responsibilities and rights under the policy.
• Enforce your impairment policy in a fair manner throughout the workplace.
Developing an impairment policy
Employers are encouraged to develop policies and procedures that address impairment in the workplace. Developing a clear impairment policy that takes a fitness-to-work approach to impairment, and that is clearly communicated to workers, can help employers meet their requirement to ensure workplace safety.
What should an impairment policy include?
An impairment policy which includes the following considerations should be developed in consultation with worker representatives (e.g. a Worker Safety Representative, Joint Health ; Safety Committee or union). Depending on the size and complexity of your workplace, it may also be helpful to obtain input from an occupational health professional (nurse, physician), and a lawyer.
• The employer must provide a safe workplace; this duty includes addressing any issue that may impair an employee’s ability to perform their work functions safely.
• Require that workplace parties must not work if they are mentally or physically impaired and include a definition of impairment, for example: workplace parties must report to work fit for duty for scheduled work and able to perform assigned work functions safely and acceptably without limitations due to use or after effects of alcohol, illicit drugs, non-prescription drugs, prescribed medications, or any other issue that may impair judgment or performance
• Set out restrictions on the presence and use of illicit drugs, recreational drugs and alcohol in the workplace
• State the consequences of policy violations (e.g. discipline up to and including dismissal)
Procedures should indicate the Roles & Responsibilities of the different workplace parties who are involved in the procedures (i.e. employee, manager/supervisor). Procedures should deal with:
• How a worker can inform their employer if they have a mental or physical impairment which may affect their ability to safely perform their assigned work functions. This includes potential impairment from any source (e.g. fatigue, using potentially impairing substances such as prescription or non-prescription drugs or alcohol).
• Advising an employer of concerns about a co-worker’s fitness to perform assigned work functions
• Identifying signs of impairment
• Assessing for impairment (using functional “fit to work” testing or substance testing)
• Removing impaired persons from the workplace (e.g. arranging for immediate transportation home)
• Accommodating disability-related impairment (i.e. workers using a potentially impairing substance, with medical authorization/prescription by a healthcare professional, to treat a disabling condition or workers with a diagnosed substance use condition). If you have an accommodation policy, include a reference to it in your impairment policy.
• Consequences of voluntarily disclosing impairment.
• Return to work following removal for impairment
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS should include:
• How will workplace parties be notified of the policy?
• How will workplace parties be trained on the policy?
• How will managers/supervisors be trained to identify signs of impairment?
• What confidentiality and privacy considerations apply?
• What support and assistance is available for individuals with impairment problems (e.g. Employee Assistance Program for substance use problems)?
• When will the policy be evaluated and updated?
Policy checklists and sample policies
The following links provide sample impairment policies and impairment policy checklists.
• Impairment Policy developed jointly by the Bargaining Council of Building Trades Unions and the Construction Labour Relations Association of BC
• Impairment Policy developed by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety found at Appendix A of the document at this link http://www.ccohs.ca/products/publications/cannabis/
• Impairment Policy checklist developed by the Atlantic Canada Council on Addiction https://www.gnb.ca/0378/acca/pdf/ACCA-Toolkit-English.pdf