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Cannabis in the workplace: NSC survey identifies employer challenges

Photo: underworld111/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — In light of recently released survey results that reveal significant gaps in knowledge between employees and employers about the safety risks posed by cannabis use in the workplace, the National Safety Council is calling on business leaders to do more to educate and protect their workers.

In April and May, the nonprofit organization surveyed 500 employers and 1,000 workers from around the country to assess the risks of cannabis use in the workplace. Results show that legalization of the substance is creating new challenges for employers. For example, one-third of the workers said they’ve observed cannabis use on the job.

Other key findings:

  • Less than half of the organizations have a written policy addressing cannabis.
  • Workers need clear communication about cannabis and employer policy.
  • More than half of the employers who eliminated testing for THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, reported seeing an increase in incidents or other workplace performance concerns.
  • Despite what employers believe, less than half of the employees indicated they’d feel comfortable telling supervisors they’re too impaired to work.

Employers are responsible for developing a culture of safety, accountability and honesty around cannabis use regardless of legality, NSC says.

“As more states legalize cannabis for recreational and medicinal use, employers must take clear, strong stances to ensure worker safety,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a press release.

To assist employers in this effort, the council has developed guidance for business leaders. Steps include:

  • Establish a clear, fair policy on cannabis that prevents impairment in the workplace and provides support for employees.
  • Build a safety-focused, trusting culture for employees to report cannabis use in the workplace.
  • Increase access to employee assistance programs and health care benefits for workers with substance use disorders.
  • Teach supervisors how to recognize and respond to impairment in the workplace.

“Research clearly shows that cannabis impacts a person’s ability to safely perform their job,” Martin said, “and we hope employers everywhere will heed our recommendations.”

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