The legalization of cannabis in Canada in October has attracted a lot of attention. Carriers have had to create or revise their policies regarding drugs and alcohol to make sure they met legal obligations. Lawyer Shelley Brown was invited to discuss the topic at the ISAAC Leadership Summit, attended by transportation industry leaders. In his talk, he explained that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. This means that carriers must develop, implement and administer a clear policy, with legal assistance, so their employees know what to expect in terms of prohibited consumption in the course of their work. In general terms, such policies should contain these four major points:
1. General prohibition
In order to minimize the risk of serious accidents caused by worker impairment, the internal policy must clearly state the prohibition of alcohol, cannabis, and other substances that affect the ability to fulfill one’s professional duties.
2. Obligations related to certain specific positions
Critical positions that can jeopardize public safety should also be identified, along with specific bans for these positions. These could include drivers and mechanics, as well as any other job where the consumption of drugs or alcohol could translate into an inability to fulfill one’s duties safely.
3. Support process and performance assessment procedures
Given the possibility that workers may require accommodation related to medicinal consumption or dependence, whether associated with recreational use or medical need, carriers must show good faith and comply with that request. Employers must set out support and assessment procedures such as performance evaluations before taking set disciplinary measures for recurrence.
4. Determine disciplinary measures
The policy should also include the possibility for employers to terminate employees in non-safety-sensitive positions when the latter have shown the inability to fulfill their duties due to the consumption of prohibited substances, despite an initial warning and initiating progressive discipline.