April 26, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the panel members for inviting Energy Safety Canada to participate in this important hearing. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you about the workplace safety implications of legalized cannabis.

As the national safety association for the oil and gas industry, Energy Safety Canada advocates for worker health and safety. We are committed to the safety of our workers and the communities where we operate.

The national oil and gas industry is inherently safety-sensitive given the materials and equipment used. Different components of the industry, including storage, transportation, drilling and processing all pose significant safety risks. Further, given the flammable nature of natural gas and oil, risks are increased in the event of a leak or spill. Operations are often located in remote or northern locations. Workers are mobile and travel from one site to another, frequently accessing public highways and going through small communities. As a result of the hazardous nature of industrial worksites, owners, companies and workers must exercise the utmost care and attention.

An oil and gas worker’s use of drugs, including cannabis, whether casual, prescribed or arising from a dependency, has the potential to create unacceptable safety risks. Given the carry-over effects of cannabis, these risks can occur regardless of whether use occurs at work or in close temporal proximity to when an employee will report to work.
Our concern is that legalization will normalize and increase the overall use of cannabis, introducing the potential for increased risk. Industry can expect increased instances of impairment in the workplace and a corresponding increase in safety incident rates.

Studies confirm there is a correlation between cannabis use and injury. For example, one study showed, male cannabis users had a 28 per cent higher rate of hospitalization due to injuries than non-users, female users had a 37 per cent higher rate of the same.[1]

There can be no doubt that cannabis use is incompatible with working in a safety-sensitive environment. Cannabis use by drivers has also been associated with increased accidents and fatalities.[2]

Performance deficits associated with cannabis that are incompatible with working in a safety-sensitive environment have been demonstrated to last after use. Studies have indicated that performance deficits can last up to two days after use of low doses of marijuana.[3]
[1] Susan Goodwin Gerberich et al, “Marijuana Use and Injury Events Resulting in Hospitalization” (2003) 13:4 Ann
Epidemiol 230.
[1] F. Couper and B. Logan, “Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets” [2004] NHTSA, DOT HS 809 725 4/04 at 7-
[1] S. Heishman et al., “Acute and residual effects of marijuana: Profiles of plasma THC levels, physiological,
subjective, and performance measures” (1990) 37:3 Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 561.

Over the last decade, the use of alcohol and drugs in our industry has been a pressing safety concern. The Cannabis Act adds another layer of complexity to this existing issue. The implications of a worker attending work unfit for duty in safety-sensitive environments can, and has, resulted in serious safety consequences that could affect not only workers, but also the environment, surrounding communities and the public.

Oil and gas employers have significant legislative obligations to ensure the safety of their workers, including maintaining a safe work environment. Employers in the oil and gas sector must address workplace hazards including those associated with alcohol and drugs. If a workplace hazard is identified, employers have a legal obligation to take corrective steps to eliminate, or if not reasonably possible, to control the hazard. The Criminal Code also imposes a duty on employers to ensure a safe work place by imposing a “legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task”.

We believe these legal obligations will become more difficult to fulfill with the legalization of recreational cannabis. Particularly given the current limitations around workplace testing.

Presently, there are no tests for impairment, only presence and likely impairment. This presents a significant concern to employers who are legally required to keep employees safe while at work. Further research needs to be conducted to provide a standard testing solution for impairment.

We ask the Government of Canada to recognize the reality and enact detailed alcohol and drug legislation that will equip Canadian employers with the tools they need to effectively manage risk, operate safely, and meet their legislative duties.

Specifically, we would like to see:
·         A practical, legally acceptable workplace and roadside testing protocol for cannabis, including identification of acceptable technology and standardized methodology.
·         Workplace alcohol and drug testing regulations to permit employers to test safety-sensitive workers on a pre-employment and random basis. With the right controls, legal framework and legislative certainty in place, the application of random testing would improve an employer’s ability to manage the risk to workers and the public.
·         Amendments to the Canada Labour Code to clearly prohibit workers from entering a workplace under the influence of cannabis or other drugs, without prior medical authorization and employer approval.
·         Further education and research on the impacts of cannabis and impairment and the appropriate testing technologies must go hand in hand with the legislation.
We believe these changes would give employers the tools needed to manage the risk to workers and the public presented by Bill C-45.

One of the stated purposes of the Cannabis Act “is to protect public health and public safety”. We believe the impact of legalized cannabis on a safety-sensitive workplace is something that needs to be specifically addressed.

With that, Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for including Energy Safety Canada and our perspective in your discussions today.

I look forward to your questions.

Murray Elliott
Energy Safety Canada


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