Canadian Underwriter

Risk of workplace cannabis use

March 9, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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The “unintended consequences” of legalizing marijuana will increase the risk of accidents in British Columbia’s forestry and oil and gas sectors, one politician warns, while a Saskatchewan government official said Thursday all workplace policies need to address cannabis use.

Brokers and insurers alike are concerned about the impact of marijuana legalization on vehicle accident risk.

Bill C-45, if passed into law, would make it legal for people 18 years of age and older to possess and share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. Youth aged 17 and younger would be allowed to possess up to five grams with no criminal penalty.

The Senate voted March 1 to adjourn debate on C-45 (which has passed the House of Commons) until March 20.

“I am worried about the unintended consequences of legalizing marijuana on safety at work,” B.C. Conservative Senator Richard Neufeld during a recent debate on second reading of Bill C-45.

Unlike testing drivers for alcohol levels, Canada does not have an approved screening device to test the level of THC in one’s system. While workers could in theory be tested for marijuana impairment, the courts have taken a dim view on random drug and alcohol testing of workers – even in dangerous workplaces.

“Random drug testing is generally unacceptable in a safety-sensitive workplace because drug tests do not indicate actual, present impairment,” the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission said in an earlier paper.

All workplaces should have policies that “include a definition of impairment that captures medical marijuana use,” a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan department of labour relations and workplace safety wrote Thursday in an email to Canadian Underwriter. Workplace policies “should say when and where medical marijuana use is acceptable,” he added.

In the oil, gas and agricultural industries in B.C., employees operate heavy equipment “in sometimes hazardous environments,” Neufeld said Feb. 27.

Intact Financial Corp. said last month (in its management discussion and analysis of its 2017 financial results) that it has some concerns over marijuana legalization including “higher frequency and severity of auto insured losses as a result of impaired driving.”

THC “can have profoundly negative effects such as impaired thinking, interference with the ability to learn and perform complicated tasks and also disrupting functioning of brain areas that regulate balance, coordination and reaction time, to name but a few,” Senator Betty Unger said last month.

Neufeld referred to an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling, released Feb. 28, prohibiting Suncor from randomly testing workers in safety-sensitive positions for impairment. Some of Suncor’s oil sands equipment include trucks weighing more than 400 tons, and cable and hydraulic shovels 21 metres in height.

That ruling “begs the question: what tools are available to employers to ensure their employees are not impaired on the job?” Neufeld told the Senate. “I find it concerning that someone would disagree with allowing an employer to randomly test someone. Many work in high-risk environments where a person’s motor control, balance or reaction time, all of which can be affected by the consumption of marijuana, could be a matter of life or death.”

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1 Comment » for Risk of workplace cannabis use
  1. [From about the impairing effects of various classes of drugs. DRUID measures impairment from all these sources–insurance companies will save money if they give discounts for people to use DRUID:
    • marijuana – slows reaction time, impairs short-term memory and concentration and causes driver to vary speed and to wander;
    • stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine) – reduces driver balance and co-ordination, reduces impulse control and increase risk-taking;
    • opioids (such as oxycodone, heroine and fentanyl) – slows reaction time, reduces ability to divide attention and follow instructions and slows driving; and
    • sedatives (such as benzodiazepines, depressants and sleep medications) – impairs motor co-ordination and slows reaction time, and decreases attentiveness and ability to divide attention.

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