Before the federal government legalized the recreational use of cannabis in October 2018, Black & McDonald Limited was already taking a hard look at its drug and alcohol policy. Black & McDonald Limited is a large, Canadian multi-trade contractor. Over 3,000 employees work out of more than 20 offices in Canada alone. Most employees spend their days on client sites, often in safety-sensitive positions. 

Taking pride in its ability for staff to perform work safely under this new landscape, Black & McDonald faced a challenge: ensuring employees’ fitness for duty when there is no recognized means of measuring impairment.


The Solution 

Update the drug and alcohol policy to reflect the new reality and undertake a comprehensive training and education program. 

“We don’t stand here with rose-coloured glasses saying that people aren’t using it recreationally within our workplace, but we have created a clear understanding of our expectations with regard to maintaining fitness for duty. As we continue to evolve our safety culture, we all need to share a role in building a strong safety culture that’s proactive and sets our workforce up for continued success.”

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Access free resources on impairment and the workplace from Workplace Safety & Prevention Services:

A job aid on cannabis and impairment in the workplace 

A sample impairment workplace policy

A sample form on responding to suspected impairment 

A sample tool for reporting suspected impairment


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“We feel that we’ve set up a solid platform that’s fair and defensible,” Pleasance told delegates. “Everybody is aware of their own responsibilities to support the system we’ve put in place.”


Ray Pleasance, Black & McDonald’s Corporate Director of OH&S, described some of the steps taken to delegates attending “Cannabis Legalization – Six Months In,” a panel session at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services’ recent Partners in Prevention 2019 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show. Among the steps:

Preparing and Presenting

Preparing and presenting a plan to the senior management team. Part of the presentation involved a Q&A session with cannabis authority Dan Demers, Senior Manager, Strategic Business Development, CannAmm Occupational Testing Services. “The senior management team expressed a lot of concern about being able to maintain a safe workplace in this environment,” noted Pleasance.

Refining the Drug

Refining the drug and alcohol policy’s fitness for duty definition. “In our world, fit for duty means a state – physical, mental and emotional – that allows the individual to perform an assigned task confidently and in a manner that doesn’t compromise or threaten the safety or health of that individual or others.”

Establishing a Process

Establishing a process for accommodating medical and recreational use of cannabis. i.e. use related to therapeutic needs and disability due to substance dependence.

Updating safety-sensitive role determinations

Updating safety-sensitive role determinations. “These positions depend on alertness, quickness of response, soundness of judgment, the accuracy of coordination of multiple muscle functions, and have a direct role in the operation where the inappropriate performance of task could result in harm to oneself, co-workers, patients, property, or the environment.”


Delivering intensive training on fit for duty requirements to the company’s safety professionals and HR staff.

Recognition Training

Providing senior management and all supervisory staff with recognition training on fit for duty requirements.


Developing an internal eLearning program for all staff.

Meetings with all Staff

Conducting regional meetings with all staff on their responsibilities and accountabilities in the context of fitness for duty. 

This article was prepared by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS). For more information, visit or contact WSPS at

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