Well-publicised changes in regulations around use of cannabis for medicinal purposes have seen an increase in prescriptions for medicinal cannabis. We all know about drug driving and impairment, but what does the increase in medicinal cannabis use mean for workplace road safety? The answer probably depends on whether you operate a fleet or have employees who drive for work, and if you take a comprehensive approach to safety?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, medicinal cannabis is likely something that should be part of your workplace road safety policies.

Employer and employee responsibilities

Although the regulations around whether it is legal to drive after taking medicinal cannabis in Australia are complex and currently under scrutiny, it is illegal to drive with any trace of THC in your system Australia-wide, and it is never legal to drive if you are ‘impaired’. Medicinal cannabis that is legally obtained is a prescribed medication, so the usual obligations around fitness for duty that apply to prescription medication also apply here.

Workers have an obligation to perform their duties safely, including driving. This includes understanding any potentially impairing effects of any medication they take, and how that may impact their safety and the safety of others.

Employers should consider including medicinal cannabis in their impairment policy. A key step to reducing the potential impacts of impairments is having appropriate policies in place, providing clear guidance to all workplace parties, and applying policies fairly and consistently. Employers can also help educate workers to understand the potentially impairing nature of medicinal cannabis and how to stay on the right side of road rules.

Communication really is the best policy

“If you’re taking medication with THC and drive, you most definitely want to speak with your employer,” says Stipe Vuleta, the managing director of Chamberlains Law Firm. “It’s going to be better to talk about your medication, when you consume it, how it impacts your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery and the things you have in place to make sure you’re safe at work.”

Workers should feel comfortable discussing the potentially impairing effects of any medication, and employers who create a workplace culture that encourages open and confidential discussions will reap the safety and business benefits of such potentially ‘courageous conversations’.

In such an environment, workplace safety risks can be proactively identified and addressed to prevent incidents. Regardless of the safety issue or how complex it is to manage, this approach will make our workplaces and roads safer for everyone.

To help employers and workers navigate the issue of medicinal cannabis, prescription drugs and driver safety, NRSPP is hosting two free webinars in late April 2021. Click here for more information or to register.

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