Written by: Brian Bell (Workplace Safety Consultant)
A safety-sensitive position refers to a job in which the employee is responsible for his or her own or other people’s safety. It also refers to jobs that would be particularly dangerous if performed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Safety-sensitive positions are often the focus of drug and alcohol testing.
Typical examples of a safety sensitive position are, equipment operators, pilots, emergency responders, doctors, flagman etc.
The definition may be open to change and evolve as we move further into cannabis legalization. More workers may use the drug on a regular basis.
Could the safety sensitive position definition be expanded to include teachers, managers and supervisors or any other decision maker who controls or oversees workers or activities?
Wikipedia, a great resource, tells us that cannabis users feel the effects typically last one to three varying by the person and the strain of cannabis. A person may hours may feel anxious and or disoriented. Between 20 and 30 percent of recreational users experience intense anxiety and/or panic attacks after smoking cannabis, however, some report anxiety only after not smoking cannabis for a prolonged period of time.
Consider what might happen should an elementary school teacher, or a pharmacist, or senior vice president of a corporation have a panic attack while at work.
Although we don’t focus on non-tool or machine related positions when considering a safety sensitive position, it may be worth considering when you are revamping job descriptions and job hazard assessments to reflect your expectations of all employees at your workplace.