Timing is everything when it comes to cannabis and work injuries, says study

Researcher suggests 'employers may need to reframe their approach'

Timing is everything when it comes to cannabis and work injuries, says study

A groundbreaking study by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has shed light on the connection between cannabis use and work-related injuries, and it reveals that when cannabis is used is one of the most important factors to consider.

The research, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, delves into the nuances of when cannabis is used and its impact on workplace safety. The study marks the first attempt to differentiate between cannabis consumption during or before a work shift and usage outside work hours in relation to work injury risk.

Dr. Nancy Carnide, a respected IWH Scientist and lead researcher on the study, says timing is everything when it comes to cannabis use. "Our study findings demonstrate that it's important to consider when cannabis use is taking place," Dr. Carnide explains. "Rather than considering any cannabis use as an occupational safety risk, I think employers may need to reframe their approach and focus on use that is likely to lead to impairment at work."

The study reveals a distinct discrepancy in work injury risks tied to cannabis use. Workers who reported using cannabis during or before a work shift were found to be twice as likely to experience on-the-job injuries compared to those who refrained from cannabis use. Interestingly, the nature of the job—whether safety-sensitive or not—did not alter the association between workplace cannabis use and future injuries, as unveiled by Carnide's comprehensive study.

Commenced prior to the legalization of non-medical cannabis in October 2018, the research project aimed to investigate shifts in workers' cannabis consumption habits and perceptions surrounding use both pre and post legalization.

Leveraging data from three waves of surveys spanning from the summer of 2018 to the summer of 2020, the study encompassed a sample of 1,715 workers who had participated in a minimum of two consecutive survey waves.

Carnide acknowledged employers' legitimate concerns regarding workplace impairment linked to cannabis use but underscores the need for balanced approaches.

"Workers should be educated about the workplace safety risks of using cannabis before or during work hours, which we clearly observed," Carnide asserts. "However, zero-tolerance workplace policies that prohibit workers from using cannabis entirely are likely too broad. Workplaces could instead consider incorporating minimum wait periods before a work shift when cannabis consumption is not allowed," she proposed.

The IWH's groundbreaking study illuminates the intricate relationship between cannabis use, timing, and workplace safety, advocating for a more nuanced understanding that could potentially inform future workplace policies and educational initiatives.