Employers are not only responsible for the physical well-being and safety of their workers, but they must also see to it that their mental health concerns are integrated into their occupational health and safety programs. One of the big issues that can threaten workplace safety is substance abuse. Although employers have a role in encouraging their employees to develop a healthy lifestyle, they may not cross the line in pressuring their workers to do so or to discriminate against those who have unhealthy lifestyles. The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who have a previous or existing alcohol or drug dependence problem, which is considered a disability.
Therefore, employers cannot just fire, dismiss, suspend, demote or discipline an employee who is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. However, the Commission on Human Rights encourages employers to focus their programs and policies on identifying impairment and safety risks, and to enforce remedial, instead of punitive measures. An employer may legally intervene in situations where drug or alcohol abuse may interfere with a worker's ability to their job safely. The nature of these interventions may vary according to local legislation, union agreements and codes on human rights. These may include drug education, health promotion and employee assistance programs, counselling services, referrals, and supervisor monitoring.
What is Workplace Substance Misuse?
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) defines workplace substance misuse as the use of a
substance that can potentially impair and adversely affect one's performance or safety at work.This may occur not only directly through intoxication or a hangover, but even indirectly through health or social problems. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety further states that using a substance “too much, too often, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time, or at the wrong place” constitutes misuse.
The use of potentially harmful drugs or alcohol is sometimes an individual's way of coping with loneliness, boredom, exhaustion or...