Why Expanding your Definition of Safety Sensitive Positions is a Critical First Step in Maintaining a Safety Culture

Safety Sensitive Position or Task…It’s a simple term with complex implications. A universal understanding of what it means is the foundation on which you can build a strong safety culture. And, as an employer or health and safety professional, it will also give you greater capacity to inquire about drug use and require drug testing of employees and prospective employees in these safety sensitive positions or performing safety sensitive tasks…Both of which are quickly becoming more prominent concerns with cannabis legalization in 2018.

The simple fact is there is no master list of positions that fall into the safety sensitive category. Instead, you have to analyze and define them in the context of your own work environment.

And they are more than simply those you think of immediately…Like a truck driver, or equipment operator, for example. In fact, the definition is much broader, and covers not only jobs, but any task where a failure to perform it properly and safely may result in an incident. 

Ask yourself the following:

  • Are your employees required to drive a vehicle at work? This means driving to a client meeting, delivering a package, running errands or even driving to different work locations or offices.
  • Are employees required to work with perform simple tasks that could cause injury if a mistake was made? This could include stocking shelves, preparing food or simple maintenance tasks like climbing a ladder to change a light bulb.
  • Do they have to work with or around potentially hazardous equipment or materials?
  • Do you have employees that work desk jobs providing technical support or instruction to people in the field who if given the wrong information could cause an incident?

An office-based salesperson may not seem to have safety sensitive tasks as part of their portfolio, but if they need to drive to visit prospective clients, then they do indeed, and they must be unimpaired and FIT FOR DUTY to perform that task.

An usher at a professional sporting event you would think does not have any safety sensitive duties until such point that there’s an emergency and the building needs to be evacuated. They instantly are put into a situation whereby impairment would not be acceptable.

The reality is, when you consider the tasks employees may need to perform daily or in rare occasions, it very clear that most positions should be considered safety sensitive. We have to stop thinking that safety sensitive positions are only the obvious ones like a truck driver or heavy equipment operator.

Thoroughly identifying and clearly defining these positions and tasks within your organization is a critical first step in proactively addressing the potential for incidents caused by impairment. By looking deeper into what positions within your organization should be considered safety sensitive you can then provide employees with the proper training and prevention awareness tools to minimize your risk and assure all employees are FIT FOR DUTY.

(Written by Jeff Bradshaw – President & CEO – The Cannabis Learning Series & V Strategies Inc.)