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‘Tis the Season – Impairment in the Workplace

December 19, 2018, by Corina Sibley | Work Environment and Policies

With the holiday season upon us, now is a good time to remind your employees what it means to be fit for work, especially in light of legalized cannabis.   If you haven’t yet written or updated your policies for this new reality, it is important to do so and train your employees on it. 

Most of us know what alcohol impairment looks like.  However cannabis affects people differently and impairment can last for longer than 24 hours.  This short video highlights how cannabis can affect your brain.  There are both short-term and long-term effects to using cannabis.


The Government of Canada Fact Sheet on Cannabis Impairment outlines the following:

  • Effects can be felt within seconds to minutes of smoking, vaporizing or dabbing cannabis. These effects can last up to 6 hours or longer.
  • If you eat or drink cannabis, these effects can occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours and can last up to 12 hours or longer

Short-term effects include:

  • confusion
  • sleepiness (fatigue)
  • impaired ability to remember, concentrate and pay attention
  • anxiety, fear or panic
  • reduced ability to react quickly
  • result in psychotic episodes

What can you do if you suspect a co-worker may be impaired?  The Atlantic Canada Council on Addiction recommends the following in their Toolkit on Problematic Substance Use That Impacts the Workplace:

  • Get some advice - talk to HR or your Employee Assistance Provider.
  • Watch out for good intentions – do not enable your co-worker further by making excuses for them, fixing their mistakes or doing their work for them.
  • Express concern - tell your co-worker you are concerned about them and link your concerns to the changes you have noticed.
  • Don’t attempt to diagnose – offer support and encouragement, not advice.
  • Be a resource - be a bridge between co-worker and appropriate sources of professional help.

Report immediately to your manager/employer if:

  • You have observed co-worker using alcohol or drugs
  • A co-worker is at work and you suspect that they have been using alcohol or drugs
  • A co-worker is not fit for work, either because drunk, stoned or emotionally upset or distracted because of personal problems.


Stay safe this holiday season, do not work or drive impaired! 


Other Items of Interest:

3 Things Employers Need to Prepare for the Legalization of Marijuana


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