Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Current State of Canadian Fitness for Duty/Impairment Policies

CCSA investigated the state of employer policies and best practices to better understand what Canadian employers are doing to address substance use. Importantly, we found that:

  • The majority of organizations reviewed did not have a comprehensive policy to address substance use or impairment, thus increasing their risk for related issues (e.g., legal).
  • Very few organizations evaluate the effectiveness of their fit-for-duty/impairment policy to address the actual issue, so they do not know whether the policy is working.
  • Most policies contained disciplinary measures, but few included any supportive measures.

Employers have a legal requirement to provide a safe working environment while respecting individual employee rights. Addressing impairment of any kind can be a difficult balancing act. Some of the most common recommended best practices and lessons learned from the study were:

  • Comprehensive policy: To adequately address substance use and impairment more broadly, policies need to include a variety of components, including clear objectives and scope, and prevention, support and return to duty/work components.
  • Organizational culture: Employers need to create a workplace culture that makes it clear that there is no tolerance for impairment from substance use, yet that also encourages a trusting and supporting environment for those affected by substance use issues.
  • Peer-to-peer programs: Initial research and employer experiences show that programs and policies involving peers appear to improve outcomes for employees.
  • Balance support and disciplinary measures: Employers can help reduce stigma and discrimination around substance use by offering treatment or return-to-work programs or both, while still clearly indicating that there is no tolerance for impairment at the workplace.

For the report at a glance, see:

For the full report, see:

Substance Use and Safety-Sensitive Industries

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) contracted CCSA to investigate additional substance use issues that are relevant to safety-sensitive industries. Safety-sensitive industries are those where employee impairment could have a serious impact on the employee’s safety and potentially the safety of other employees and the public, or the environment. Positions in safety-sensitive industries include airline pilots, forklift operators or construction workers, and others in those lines of work. The report examines details such as testing for substance use, cannabis impairment and the workplace, legal context and past case decisions examining impairment, and other topics.

The report is hosted on the CNSC website.

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