Pubdate: Sat, 23 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Cassandra Szklarski
Page: B14


Some HR officials concerned that legalization could lead to safety
issues in workplace

Once recreational cannabis use becomes legal, taking a "smoke break"
at work could suddenly become much more complicated.

At least that's the fear among some human resources officials who
wonder if the law change will bring impairment at work, decreased
productivity, poor attendance and, of course, safety issues.

Many questions linger over what legal pot will mean for the average
workplace, says Scott Allinson of the Human Resources Professionals
Association, which outlined its concerns in a 25-page report over the

While some of those issues have been addressed by proposed provincial
limitations on who can toke and where, Allinson says many in his field
are still unclear about what constitutes impairment and when an
employee can be tested for cannabis use.

"Is it going to be decreased work performance? Is that going to be a
huge issue? Is attendance going to be a big issue?" says Allinson,
whose provincial group represents 24,000 members, most in Ontario but
also some outside the province and country. "And then the disciplinary
procedures of how to deal with it - (who is) going to be the test case
for the first court case?"

Without a clear, legal definition of impairment, many human resources
officers are unsure how to revise their policies, he says, especially
in sectors that are not especially safety-sensitive.

The tricky part is in explicitly outlining how much is too much,
detailing expectations about possible recreational use before a shift,
and being able to accurately monitor job performance they suspect is
affected by pot use.

"There are policies in place that tell you when it comes to alcohol,
you can't drink - for pilots or for truck drivers, you can't drink X
amount before (a shift)," he says. "What is it for somebody who is
consistently a user recreationally? Is that impairing him to do his
job as a desk worker?"

Indeed, it's the sectors where safety issues are less concerning that
might be less prepared for possible fallout of legalization, slated to
take effect by July 2018, suggests human resources consultant Jan Laevens.

"I worry about the systemic and the more subtle impact because the
extremes are always a little more straightforward to deal with," says
Laevens, who works with the Toronto firm HirePower.

"If people are going out and having a few drinks at lunch, are they
coming back? And we're seeing a productivity drop of 10, 15 per cent?
Haven't a clue. Very hard to ascertain. Very hard to measure and
certainly very, very challenging to investigate."

Right now there is no reliable test for impairment. While urine and
saliva tests can detect THC - the active ingredient in marijuana -
that doesn't indicate active impairment and it can take between 24 and
48 hours for THC to clear the system.

It's also possible for a worker to test positive if they've been
exposed to second-hand smoke in a poorly ventilated room, according to
a recent study at the University of Calgary.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees cautions employers from using
legalization as an excuse to pursue a more aggressive policy around
random drug testing, which is rarely permitted and requires a high
legal bar to protect workers' human rights.

The public sector union, whose members include flight attendants,
paramedics and child care workers, says there are more effective ways
to manage addiction and substance abuse issues "that are constructive
rather than punitive."
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