Nov 08 , 2019
The National Safety Council recently released an official position/policy statement stating their belief that it is unsafe to work in a safety sensitive position under the influence of cannabis. Safety sensitive positions are defined as jobs that impact the safety of the employee and others, such as operating heavy machinery or motor vehicles.
“At this time, NSC believes there is no level of cannabis use that is safe or acceptable for employees who work in safety sensitive positions,” said the council.
While this might seem like a statement of the obvious to some, the issue of cannabis consumption has become a hot-button topic across the United States due to the substance’s current, complicated place in the legal system. 46 states in the U.S. have some form of medical cannabis laws, 23 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana, and ten states have legalized cannabis consumption for adult recreational use. Despite this, cannabis is still illegal at a federal level and remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
This creates a complicated environment for employers looking to hire candidates to fill positions, including employers in the construction industry. The current construction labor shortage means that “good help” is hard to find, and in states where cannabis is legal “good help that can pass a drug test” is even harder to find. In some situations, employers are faced with the decision of whether or not they should turn away an otherwise solid candidate because a drug test showed that they have consumed a substance that is technically legal in their state.
The NSC’s statement should help make that decision easier for some. The council makes what could be seen as a grey area seem fairly black and white; do not hire someone to perform safety-sensitive tasks if they consume cannabis at any level.
Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the NSC, clarified their position even fuller in a separate statement in which she said this:
“When it comes to activities such as driving, operating machinery and managing high-consequence work environments with little margin for error, addressing impairment cannot fall by the wayside. This is especially true at a time when injuries and fatalities continue to be a top concern for workplaces across multiple industries. It is for this reason that we are calling on employers to restrict cannabis use for those in safety sensitive positions – regardless of whether cannabis consumption is allowed by their state.”
Martin also expressed concerns that some states are moving toward decriminalization too quickly, without taking the time necessary to fully flesh out safety measures. As the issue of cannabis consumption and legalization continues to evolve, laws, policies, and employers will need to adapt along with the changes.