Ed Secondiak thinks workplaces need to educate their employees on safety with regards to cannabis in light of increased use and pending legalization.

The former RCMP officer said the goal isn't to punish people, but to be proactive to avoid unintended consequences of marijuana use, like workplace accidents. 

"We're not concerned about whether it's illegal or legal. Our concerns more so are the impact on the workplace, in particular with safety," said Secondiak, who is president of the occupational health company ECS Safety Services.

Medicinal marijuana use is on the rise and the federal government has promised legalization legislation.

Rules similar to alcohol, except ...

In light of that, Secondiak said there can be confusion about who can smoke marijuana before work. 

He said the rules around recreational pot use are no different than regulations on alcohol. The substances are different, but intoxication at work remains the same. 

However, he noted, people are prescribed pot and may need to use it at work. 

'We're trying to make sure people go back home with all the parts they came to work with.' - Ed Secondiak, ECS Safety Services

The level of impairment varies from person to person based on factors such as the amount consumed, the method of consumption and their level of tolerance.

"In many cases you actually have to go through a trial and error to see how it's affecting that employee," said Secondiak.

Employers should be open to discussing marijuana at work so they can collaborate with employees to find the best solution for everyone, he said.

Extra care with 'safety sensitive positions'

Secondiak said it's important that people don't work in "safety sensitive positions" if they're using recreationally or medicinally. A safety sensitive position is one where accidents, injuries or fatalities can happen, such as a machinery operator or a medical professional. 

"We're trying to make sure people go back home with all the parts they came to work with." 

Mettrum recalled its products after 'small amounts of Myclobutanil' were found.

Ed Secondiak has given several presentations on drug use in the workplace across Canada and says he’s witnessed a decline in workplace accidents in the aftermath. (Robert Short/CBC)

Employers may need to accommodate medicinal marijuana users who do work in safety sensitive positions by finding them a different role or examining types of leave, he said.

He noted it often comes down to whether or not the individual can do their job and that often depends on how complex the job is. 

On Tuesday, Secondiak will give a talk at a Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board event in Saskatoon.