Substance Use Affecting the Workplace

Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 11:00 AM PT, 2:00 PM ET

Impairment and its potential impact on the workplace has been an increasing concern among employers in recent years. This is due in part to the legalization of cannabis, and the rising opioid crisis. Employers have a number of questions and concerns on how to understand and navigate impairment, how to meet legal requirements, and how to develop an effective policy that balances employer and employee needs. This webinar will cover these and other aspects of developing a comprehensive impairment workplace policy.

You will learn:

  • Effective components of a workplace impairment policy
  • Key challenges (e.g., organizational culture, observing for impairment, stigma, return to work)
  • Dispelling myths and misunderstandings about some substances (e.g., opioids, cannabis)
  • Who to consult when developing an impairment policy
  • Tools and resources for employers​


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Take-home message:

  • In 2014, the total cost of lost productivity due to substance use was $15.7 billion, and for workers’ compensation the loss was $114.3 million (CSUCH, 2019).
  • Impairment is impairment: it does not matter if the cause is fatigue, alcohol, stress, prescription medications – there is a legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace.
  • Comprehensive impairment policies balance disciplinary and supportive elements, employer and employee needs, and managing risk while reducing stigma.
  • Employers do not diagnose: if impairment is observed, address the situation according to your policy and best practices and leave the diagnoses to medical experts.
  • Employers report that organizational culture is one of the biggest obstacles to reducing impairment in the workplace: stigma, discrimination, poor practices, inconsistent and contradictory messaging are a few of the factors that can reduce policy effectiveness.
  • Evaluate policies for effectiveness in reducing impairment on a regular basis: are the policies doing what they are intended to do?
  • Substance use disorder is considered a disability and employers are required to accommodate employees up to undue hardship on the employer.

Hosted by

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Shawna Meister, MA

Research and Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA)
Shawna Meister, M.A., is a Research and Policy Analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). Currently, she conducts research on drug-impaired driving and substance use affecting the workplace. Her background includes research and publications on impaired driving, alcohol consumption, substance use and safety-sensitive industries, and substance use and workplace policies.
Bryce Barker Cropped

Bryce Barker, PhD

Knowledge Broker, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA)
Bryce Barker, Ph.D., is a Knowledge Broker with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). He currently works on substance use affecting the workplace, the National Alcohol Strategy, and the Postsecondary Education Partnership- Alcohol Harms. He has developed resources on alcohol consumption, community responses to alcohol harms, cannabis use among adolescents, and substance use and workplace policies.

Partially funded by

BC Government
This program is pre-approved by the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada (VRA Canada) for one hour training session.
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