Online courses and info sheets aim to reduce stigma and spark conversations
In a bid to address substance use and reduce stigma in the workplace, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has released a suite of resources in collaboration with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF-FCA). These resources, including online courses and informative sheets, are designed to empower employers and tradespeople across Canada with essential knowledge and tools.
According to Jan Chappel, senior technical specialist with CCOHS, the courses aim to "raise awareness about the impacts of stigma and the importance of a safe and supportive workplace." She further noted, "These courses are meant to be another tool in their kit to help start those conversations, to open up people's understanding about what stigma is, or what substance use isn't."
There are three online courses under the heading ‘Substance Use in the Trades’ including ‘Being Aware,’ ‘Harm Reduction,’ and ‘Supporting Your Well-being.’ The courses take about 15 minutes each.
Chappel says the goal is to make the information readily accessible to both workers and employers. "Some are directed more for workers, and some are directed more for employers, it depends on the focus of the course," says Chappel.
There are also information sheets available for download. The sheets can be handed out in the workplace or used for during information sessions like toolbox talks. They provide comprehensive overviews of substance use in the trades, addressing topics such as combating stigma and the responsibilities of employers in challenging stigma and reducing impairment.
"They can bring the info sheets to the workplace and have it discussed at a team meeting. Or if they wanted to use it as a handout that works well, or they can use it as a poster if they feel that works for them," says Chappel.
It’s part of a partnership between CCOHS and CAF-FCA, highlighting the pivotal role of a study commissioned by CAF-FCA in March 2023. The study, titled ‘Understanding Substance Use Among Apprentices in the Skilled Trades’, sought to delve into the experiences of apprentices and tradespeople concerning substance use and their needs for support.
"The report suggests that some promising practices would be that a peer support program works well, reducing stigma in the workplace is important,” says Chappel.
Addressing stigma surrounding substance use is a central focus of the initiative, and it is a top priority in tackling the opioid crisis in North America.
"People don't want to address it, but that's an issue,” says Chappel. “By talking about it and recognizing that everyone uses substances differently, sometimes substance use is not a problem…. but when it becomes problematic that you have those conversations around the use and help people where they need it."
Chappel says the conversation should always be focused on workers performing their jobs safely. “And if they can't, what will you do about it as an employer? And what supports does that person need to be able to do their job safely?"
Chappel encourages health and safety leaders to utilize these resources, viewing them as valuable tools to facilitate conversations about substance use and impairment. “We hope they can use them as another tool in their kit. If it helps open the door to have those difficult conversations around these areas, then we're very happy to help them use them."