By David Laks and Sarah Spohr

An impaired worker operating heavy machinery at a construction worksite is not only obviously alarming and dangerous, but with the legalization of recreational cannabis, it’s also likely.

In an industry already beset by high rates of drug use, it’s important for employers to be vigilant in how they approach and address employee drug use and abuse.1 But, only 11% of companies report having a cannabis policy in place addressing the use of medical marijuana.2 And, subsequently even more were caught unprepared to deal with the impact of legalized recreational marijuana on the worksite.

A complete customized cannabis policy is essential to protect workers and your business. Whether you are developing a new policy from scratch or altering an existing program to meet new requirements, here are seven areas to consider reviewing for your program:

  1. Scope: This is the most important part of your policy. Be sure to cover the following topics and spell out the details as clearly as possible:
    • WHEN the policy applies: just during work hours? When you’re on call? All the time?
    • WHERE it applies: only on work premises? In a company vehicle? At a company-wide social activity?
    • WHICH forms it applies to: only dried forms? Creams? Edibles?
  2. Testing procedures: Clarify your company’s testing procedures directly in the policy. Most companies conduct a pre-hire test and additional tests for reasonable suspicion post-incident.
  3. Open door policy: Always maintain the ability of employees to disclose use without retaliation, whether that use is medicinal, recreational or even a dependency. Note that people who are using marijuana because they are ill or have a disability must not be discriminated against.
  4. Prevention: You may wish to offer additional benefits relating to drug prevention and/or smoking cessation. This may be offered as an additional benefit on the employee benefits side.
  5. Disciplinary measures: Detail any penalties or corrective measures taken when an employee is caught using at an inappropriate time. Make sure everyone, from managers to employees, understands the penalties for each instance.
  6. Safety sensitive positions: Be sure the policy includes an appendix of positions and activities that are especially sensitive, and share that information more broadly. The policy should include working environments as well as working activities. It may relate to different employees at different times, so clarify where and to whom the policy applies. And always disclose this information at the time of hire.
  7. Other HR policies: You likely have other HR policies (i.e., smoking policy, subcontractor policies, disciplinary policy, scent free work environment policy) that may be connected in some way to the cannabis policy. Review those policies carefully and ensure they are aligned.

Be prepared to spell everything out in your cannabis policy. Update the policy regularly to correspond to new legislation and review it with legal counsel. Also, inform your employees of updates and changes, and training managers, is essential. Make sure everyone is on the same page to help you protect your employees and your business.

HUB International’s brokers are available to work with you in understanding risks related to cannabis in the construction industry and guiding you in writing the best cannabis policy for your business.


1 David Frame, Director of Government Relations, Ontario General Contractors Association, as quoted in https://www.on-sitemag.com/features/nipping-job-site-impairment-in-the-bud-construction-industry-grapples-with-cannabis-legalization/

2 Clearing the Haze: The Impacts of Marijuana in the Workplace, Human Resources Professionals Association, 2017, https://www.hrpa.ca/Documents/Public/HRPA-Clearing-The-Haze.pdf