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Acting on your instincts

Supervisors can face stiff implications if they ignore substance abuse in the workplace


PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Tom Yearwood, CEO of the Denning Health Group, said on the shoulders of company supervisors rests the responsibility to ensure the proper management of workplace substance abuse policies – or they will face the consequences.

Referring to Bill C-45, Yearwood pointed out that the regulation states that if a supervisor is aware or has knowledge that a worker is impaired in any way while in the workplace, and an incident occurs as a result, the supervisor is liable and could face serious implications.

“Bill C-45 is very real,” Yearwood said, adding that he was not trying to frighten those in attendance of the B.C. Forest Safety Council’s Interior Safety Conference May 27 in Prince George.

With criminal liability imposed on knowing supervisors in the event of a workplace injury, death or incident, some could face 10 years in prison, life when a fatality occurs, or stiff fines. Companies can also face unlimited fines, as the intent of the bill is to deter others from making the same mistakes, and puts no weight on the impact of the fine on the offending company.

For this reason and others, Yearwood believes it is important companies implement a workplace substance abuse policy, one that performs two types of investigations – post incident and reasonable cause.

The post incident investigation will determine whether a drug and alcohol test should be carried out, as not all workplace incidents require a substance test, said Yearwood.

Three areas are examined: whether a triggering incident occurred, if there were acts of omission on part of the worker involved that contributed to the incident, and whether outside factors can be ruled out as a cause.

Triggering incidents can be death, injury, damage to property, environmental, or a close call.

Outside factors that cause an accident can be mechanical, environmental, or poor road conditions.

Yearwood encouraged people not to jump to conclusions during the post incident investigation when determining whether a drug and alcohol test should be administered.

Reasonable cause declares a legal duty for supervisors to immediately investigate any reports or observations of impairment, or on-the-job drug use, including prescription medication, as not all are safe to use in the workplace.

Yearwood said a person’s eyes can tell the story.

“The eyes are such a fantastic assessment tool,” he said, pointing to the fact that if a person is on depressants, their pupils constrict, while on stimulants, they dilate.

Yearwood said what people do in their own personal time is their business, but in the workplace it has to be on the supervisors’ radar.

“We’re not looking at drug and alcohol use,” he said, “we’re trying to improve safety, bottom line.”

Yearwood showed some general statistics that revealed if a person had a blood-alcohol level of .180 at 2 a.m., by 6 a.m. the level remains at .120, and by 7 a.m., when many in the industry begin work, their blood-alcohol level is still at an unacceptable .105. Only by 11 a.m. has the level dropped to .045 – the law states that any level above .039 constitutes impairment in the workplace.

As for dealing with the possible legalization of marijuana, Yearwood said it’s pretty simple – it won’t change workplace safety, and if you can’t come to work with an alcoholic drink or impaired, the same applies for marijuana.

Negative labels

Throughout time, each generation has had its fair share of bad press.

Starting with those flighty Baby Boomers, then the slacker Generation Xers, and now the lazy Millennials – the generation before has always had issues with the younger lot.

Sasja Chomos of New Quest Coaching said Baby Boomers and other generations must find ways not only to find similarities but also not dismiss the differences between younger and older workers in order to excel in the workplace.

Chomos also pointed out that for the first time in Canadian history, there are more people approaching end of life than there are those at the beginning.

“Consider what that means for our workforce,” Chomos said.

Chomos said every generation is a product of their upbringing and what was happening in the world during that time.

Traditionalists, who will soon be completely out of the workforce, dealt with world wars and the Great Depression; Baby Boomers, Chomos said, literally shaped society, having a tremendous influence on innovation, invention, and how the world today functions; Gen Xers were the first latch-key kids, as divorce tripled during their upbringing and they were forced to be extremely independent; and Gen Y/Millennials grew up in an age of globalization, are the most educated generation, and have seen everything that has happened in the world because technology has been at their fingertips.

“If there are already challenges for you in attracting and retaining a new workforce, it’s only going to get worse,” Chomos said, pointing the fact that Millennials now make up the largest portion of the Canadian workforce and the next generation – Gen Z – is soon going to be handing out resumes.

“The way to really learn is to spend time with people who are different than you,” she said. “Remember that how you were raised and how you did things has a huge influence on what you expect from others.”

Sasja Chomos of New Quest Coaching says that by the year 2020 there will be five generations in the workforce.


Derek Clouthier

Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media industry as an editor, reporter and now as editor of Truck West. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels. derek@newcom.ca @DerekClouthier
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