Given the legalization of marijuana, workplace safety and your business have a lot to talk about in BC. Workplace safety is still paramount, so ensuring that proper protocols are maintained is essential. The reality is that the legalization of marijuana will likely cause a lot of discussions and, potentially, create far-reaching implications for employers. While each employer has to work to ensure a safe workplace, you must ask yourself: Will a zero-tolerance approach to marijuana use serve your company’s interests?
THE DOWNSIDE OF A ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY
For those working in safety-sensitive industries such as transportation, forestry, or resource extraction, I challenge you to think outside the box on this one. On one hand, an employer has every right to refuse an applicant a job if they use marijuana, just as they do for alcohol or cocaine—even if it is on a casual or recreational basis. By that measure, employers may let go of a current employee for the same reason, even if they are otherwise satisfied with their work. But in what many are calling a tight labour market, will a zero-tolerance policy simply cause unrest and outstrip the benefits that those employees bring to the table?
MARIJUANA IS THE NEW ALCOHOL
I am not suggesting that employers should be allowed to use marijuana at work, nor should workplace impairment due to off-duty marijuana use be allowed or tolerated, but there are other approaches in the workplace. This approach is best for the prevention of workplace injury or the occupational health and safety of the employees.
I invite my clients to think of marijuana use as they do alcohol and then to develop a safe policy around the same principles of use. A casual user of marijuana poses no more threat to the safety of the worksite than does a casual drinker; so the question then becomes: Why treat marijuana use differently than alcohol if doing so will impact your company’s ability to hire and retain qualified individuals? This makes it difficult if the occupational health and safety of the employees is not addressed in your British Columbia, Canada company.
POLICY, NOT PROHIBITION
What every employer needs is to develop a well thought out policy and adopt testing protocols related to work; all of which should reasonably reflect their expectations and needs. One example is lab-based oral fluid testing, which provides a shorter testing window than traditional lab-based urinalysis. If you are operating in a safety-sensitive industry without a policy or a testing program, now is the time to develop and incorporate both. The basic idea is to keep the workforce and company safe in British Columbia.
CLEAR & HONEST COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Clear and honest communication between an employer and their current (or potential) employees is key for the success of the workplace. Those who are applying for a position should be asked both about their current and past drug and alcohol use, including marijuana. If an applicant acknowledges that they are a marijuana user, the date of their last use should be determined in the interview and the applicant made aware of the employer’s testing program for workplace safety or workplace injury.
DRUG & ALCOHOL TESTING PROTOCOL
Once the potential employee is aware of the drug and alcohol testing protocol, the employer must make it clear that a.) They want to hire the applicant, and b.) A job offer has been made. Once that is clear, drug testing may be carried out. Ideally, this should include both lab-based urinalysis, which will detect marijuana use over a much longer time, as well as oral fluid testing, which in most cases has a window of 3 days.
If the applicant has not been forthcoming about his or her drug use, it may give the employer grounds to deny employment based on misrepresentation for the workplace. Applicants should be advised to abstain from use for a week before to the test if the company decides on something other than a zero-tolerance approach. This will lead to the ultimate occupational workplace safety in BC.
CROSS BORDER COMPANIES
For Canadian employees and companies operating in the US, or who are carrying out cross-border transportation governed by the American Department of Transportation (DOT) rules, the legalization of marijuana in BC and Canada will have not affect the application of the American DOT program and its use remains prohibited.
Keeping your occupational workplace and employees safe is the ultimate key to your success. If you would like to talk safety, or to find out more about our consulting practice, contact us for a consultation today.