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Identifying Potential Impacts of Cannabis via Reasonable Suspicion

Tue, 07/31/2018

What events might trigger a cause for reasonable suspicion?


Concerns often come from those who work closest to a potentially impaired employee.  It could be co-workers, clients or vendors.  If someone comes to you with a concern:

  • Question and document what was observed
  • Inquire if there were additional witnesses
  • Determine if the behaviour is new or has happened previously


A cause for reasonable suspicion is more than a hunch.  It is based on objective observations.  Immediately, upon notice of a potentially hazardous situation, a manager or HR representative trained in reasonable suspicion should conduct a first-hand observation.  Observations are founded through what can be seen, heard or smelled.

There are immediate observable indicators, such as:

  • Stumbling
  • Shouting
  • Erratic behaviour
  • A significant violation of safety
  • Serious misconduct
  • An observed or reported use of a prohibited substance

Observations should focus on an employee’s:

  • Conduct
  • Behaviour
  • Appearance
  • Distinctive odours of drugs or alcohol

Signs and symptoms of potential dug and / or alcohol use can include:

  • Strange behaviour
  • Possession or use of an unknown substance
  • Disorientation
  • Eye issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Paranoia

It is also important to remember, reasonable suspicion is based on ruling out possible causes, not probably causes that may render an employee unfit for duty.

Other conditions that can mimic alcohol and / or drug use could include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Brain diseases or tumours
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Other neurological disorders
  • Allergic reaction to prescriptions

If you believe there is a cause for reasonable suspicion, seek out a second member of management or HR to confirm your initial assessment.  The second observer should perform their own first-hand observation of the employee.  Determinations should ideally made by at least two trained supervisors who agree.

Preventing Hazardous Situations

Keep track of what the employee is currently doing.  Is it safe?  Are they working in a safety-sensitive or decision-critical position?  Are their actions creating a possible safety concern – threatening their own well-being or that of others?  Allowing a potentially impaired employee to continue to work in a safety-sensitive or decision-critical position puts everyone at risk.

Empowering your workforce with training on how to identify potential cause for reasonable suspicion is imperative in ensuring your workplace is safe.