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Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby mitchbaywatch » Dec 4th, 2012, 10:12 am

Pooky, you keep saying you, don't know if it is aimed at me, but I do not need drugs to work thx.
I guess my big point is in the big picture I just don't see illegal drug use at he workplace out of control like some
here seem to think it is. Smurf I do agree with some of what yor concerns are, but is it really an epidemic?
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby hobbyguy » Dec 4th, 2012, 10:54 am

Although I retired a few years back, my experience with average employees managed about 45, mostly union, was that substance abuse issues were not that common.

Alchohol was number 1, but even there issues were relatively rare, maybe 1 every other year. Over a twenty year period only had 3 employees fall into serious alchohol problems, and only one wound up getting fired (failed rehab etc.).

Hard drug incidents were number 2. Far fewer incidents than alchohol, but more serious in nature. 3 in 20 years, but all 3 wound up getting fired. Rehab efforts just didn't seem to work. 2 out of 3 incidences also involved violent behaviour.

MJ incidents were about half of alchohol, and minor in nature. Maybe one every 3 years or so.

Interestingly, the rehab folks told me that it is often the case that sunstance abusers don't bring their abuse to the work place until it gets really bad. Partly because folks identify with what they do for a living, and partly because they need the money to pay for their substance abuse.

The bulk of the folks that I eventually had to fire were in the situation where their substance abuse had resulted in their personal lives being totally messed up before the problem showed up at work.

After the employer introduced access to 3rd party counselling services, the number of serious incidences in the workplace went down. There were a few employees granted leaves of absence upon request by the counsellors (we never knew why), so I'm guessing that some problems were intercepted before they spilled over into the workplace.

So yes, it is a concern, but not a major concern if properly handled.

Of course, my experience may be tainted by the fact that I never tolerated substance abuse (we didn't call it that then) in the workplace, even before it became commonplace for companies to have formal policies. The employees knew that, and likely responded by keeping their substance abuse away from the workplace.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby Smurf » Dec 4th, 2012, 12:47 pm

Does it have to be an epidemic to be a problem. Not in my mind. Any abuse especially in dangerous conditions is a problem. I would probably agree with you hobbyguy. I saw more of it because I was often in 300, 500 and even 1000 man camps. In the 70's when I was in camps at powehouses in Gilliam Manitoba, The pub in the Longspruce construction camp sat hundreds and boasted it was the largest in Canada. Nothing like 400 or 500 drunk and high construction workers for excitement. Some of those guys liked to scrap for fun. If someone sat in a regulars seat he would throw them out before he sat down for his first drink.

I can see where you did not have a serious concern because as you say it was handled properly. I wonder how it would have been if you had had 450 workers on site. That would have been potentially about 5 alcohol problems, 1 or 2 hard drug and about 3 to 4 mj a year. I was seeing that and more. In the 70's a lot of alcohol and even then hard drugs because they all had lots of money.

To me one problem a year that is totally preventable is too many. I know it is a dream to think it is impossible to wipe it out but it is always worth the effort. I was always more happy to turn someone in than to come as a rescue crew/first responder to pick up a fellow injured worker or a body. Have done both.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby mitchbaywatch » Dec 4th, 2012, 1:10 pm

"I can see where you did not have a serious concern because as you say it was handled properly. I wonder how it would have been if you had had 450 workers on site. That would have been potentially about 5 alcohol problems, 1 or 2 hard drug and about 3 to 4 mj a year."

take the low numbers = less than 1% for drugs. I understand the concern, it just seems to me you have an
agenda here. Do you perhaps own shares of the companies that supply these tests. Just trying to understand
sorry if I come across a certain way but I don't see the big concren.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby fluffy » Dec 4th, 2012, 1:36 pm

mitchbaywatch wrote:take the low numbers = less than 1% for drugs. I understand the concern, it just seems to me you have an agenda here. Do you perhaps own shares of the companies that supply these tests. Just trying to understand
sorry if I come across a certain way but I don't see the big concren.


That could work both ways. I'm of the mind that there are some posting here deliberately trying to downplay even the possibility of a problem simply to support an agenda in favour of recreational drug use.

I think there must be a problem of some degree or we wouldn't have money being spent on assessing its magnitude, like the DARRPP program currently underway in Alberta. I for one am in favour of having as much information as possible on the table to facilitate informed decision making. If some form of random testing would add to the dependability of that information then I'm okay with that regardless of the fact that it would likely cost me money rather than make me any.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby mitchbaywatch » Dec 4th, 2012, 3:00 pm

fair enough Fluffy.
as for " I'm of the mind that there are some posting here deliberately trying to downplay even the possibility of a problem simply to support an agenda in favour of recreational drug use." not trying to down play, just saying not a big concern, and as for the agenda
there are other threads to argue that! During my years as a level 3 first aid person "illegal drugs were not a big concern for
the accidents I had to deal with. But that is just my experience. Cheers
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby Smurf » Dec 4th, 2012, 3:31 pm

Mitch you really are caught up on the "illegal drugs". Even I agreed with Hobbyguy that alcohol "legal" was probably the worst. I would also agree that I probably dislike illegal drugs the most but that is because many are so difficult to detect along with the fact it is illegal to possess them. When it comes to impairement it does not matter if drugs are legal or illegal. When you were a level 3 did you ever test people after accidents to see if they had some impairement. I know we certainly didn't and therefore quite a number could have been partially impaired and it could have had something to do with the accident. A person does not have to be hammered to be dangerous A good example is alcohol. Most of the tests done on drinking and driving show that a person is impaired long before they or you can tell.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby Smurf » Dec 4th, 2012, 4:02 pm

Just reading "Alberta workers" thread under "Kelowna" and Noticed this.

Joer2012 wrote:

I think you read too much into it. The oil patch is inundated with wannabees. People with a class 5 license wanting/begging companies to pay for their class 1, a horde of online applications from every corner of the country, people who havent researched the industry, big talkers who say they can do the gig but won't work in cold windy subzero weather and don't have the significantly higher work ethic required here in the oil patch compared to (a perception of) sunny, lazy, self-gratifying, effete Kelowna, where going for a Starbucks is considered "work".

Point is - as has been said, you have to get out there and get in front of a recruiter with something to offer. Yes, you may have random vague "transferrable skills" but can you hack the real nasty. What can you offer, from day 1? Lots of talkers, wannabees, but few walkers. How many say they can handle long consistent hard days. 12-16 a day, maybe more. Mentally and physically it's hard. Just saying how it looks from the point of view of an oil company or service company recruiter or hiring manager. The churn rate or dropout rate on new hires is very high. I guess at a 25% retention rate after a few months. So, you're just another wanabee or fail until you step up and offer something. So many drunks, substance addicts, life fails, people who are unreliable and sleep in. People full of myths and delusions who think they'll clear ten grand a month without any experience or value.

And if the meaningless waffle of the internet offends you, the oil patch will too. It's harsh, direct, brutal and unforgiving. Stuff needs to get done and nobody is going to politely ask you to get it done. I don't mean offense, it's just how it is.

I hope this helps put some perspective on things. No offence intended, it's just meant to offer some reality.


I wonder how many of these people are gone because they are drunks and addicts or dependent and can't get through a day without help. It certainly helps the situations I am worried about. Also probably means there are lots out there working somewhere else.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby Smurf » Dec 4th, 2012, 4:07 pm

hobbyguy wrote:

The bulk of the folks that I eventually had to fire were in the situation where their substance abuse had resulted in their personal lives being totally messed up before the problem showed up at work.


Another huge problem that I have seen and that affects a person greatly at work long before the actual substance abuse is actually seen. Someones mind being elsewhere is as bad as impairement and is a common symptom of substance abuse. You often have no idea it is happening.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby fluffy » Dec 4th, 2012, 4:30 pm

What brought this whole discussion to light for me was the dispute in the tarsands area over random drug testing. Admittedly, here in the Okanagan the instances of on-the-job substance use/abuse I have witnessed have been rare. Impaired abilities due to hangovers and such are much more common, but still I have seen very few mishaps that could be attributed to that factor. I can see the problem being of greater concern in a camp situation where people are isolated, work long hours, and far removed from their normal social support system. It's like Joer2012's post quoted above, it's a tough life and many will respond by inappropriate substance use/abuse. They want the money, but can't get their head around the mindset it takes to survive in that sort of environment. For the skeptics out there a simple google search on anything like "drugs in work camp" will bring forth a wealth of anecdotal evidence that the problem is far from insignificant.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby mitchbaywatch » Dec 4th, 2012, 8:16 pm

That is a great point Smurf, no one was ever tested. But I can tell you with most of the incidents when you got the scene or
aid room it was usually the same few people. These people were the ones without being too mean came from the shallow end of the gene pool, these people has reputations at work as accidents waiting to happen (minor or severe). I could not tell you for sure but to the best of my knowledge were not impaired. I would ask around that area questions as to find out info on the accidents, replies were it was just a matter of time it was gonna happen. Most people has few food things to say of the these people, so there was no reason for people hide anything because they would have preferred if they did not work there anymore. So yeah no one was tested but there was never a reason to suspect anyone of drug use.You know the saying if you have a pulse and can breathe you have a job, because of the lack of good workers applying and a job needs to be done. The rest off the accidents were shortness of breath, chest pains (age of patient) and just everyday things that one would not bat an eye to happening. My time was not in camps so mabye I am out of touch with north, but all of my current friends that work up north do choose to stay sober because they like the money and would not let pleasure come before the "big plan" of working in a place some people call misery (for obvious reason but the biggest reason missing family). I was not under the impression that this thread was soley about was about camps and up north and if that is the case maybe there is more cause for concern, but as I said in a previous post across the board( all of canada) I don't see it as a big concern. And for that I apologize it was not my intent to rail raid this thread into something is was not.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby Smurf » Dec 5th, 2012, 9:18 am

Don't appoligize Mitch, I believe you have brought some interesting information and definately some thought for me. Here are a couple of new thoughts.

Yes I was concerned more about illegal drugs but you and others have made me realize that legal drugs are just as bad.

You have made me realize that I was concentrating on camps where I was most familiar, where the problems are probably worse due to the situations there.

You have started me wondering about whether or not the situation is as bad as I feel it is. I do still feel it is worse than we actually realize both from a safety point and a productive point. I don't believe Irwin Pulp and Paper are worried about camp situations but I could be wrong. I also don't believe hobbyguy was talking about a camp situation and they did have limited problems which they controlled by a prompt and proper reaction which I would like to think most do.

One thing this all made me realize was that in the camp situation because of the way I was involved (union, safety, fire/rescue) I was involved in more than the average worker and also privy to information that is not generally available in other working conditions. I knew or someone I knew, usually knew the person involved in problems and their life style. We knew what they ate, when they went to bed, what they did with their time off. We usually knew if they were trying to hide something. Almost as much as you know about your direct family. So we realized when there were other factors most likely involved even if we couldn't prove them. One thing I can tell you from my experience is that many of these people who
without being too mean came from the shallow end of the gene pool
, had more problems than being a bit shallow on genes. When Nibs says:
would smoke a doobie at lunch and was useless in the afternoon, lost all ability to think through the planning part, and could only do what he was told - had a pretty complete memory loss
could that be mistaken for what you are describing.

Yes there were a number that as you politely state had problems beyond their control. However while living in such close proximity with these people I also realized that behind closed doors or not, many of these people were causing their own problems. Some of the people you would normally think were slow and lazy were actually under the infuence of something not easily detectable. They were probably that way when they started work so it was never noticed. In todays world that might be picked up in the oil fields where they do some testing and there again what if it is a prescription drug (pain killer) that is affecting them. Are they refused employment? Also what happens in the cases you are talking about Mitch where you assume right or wrong that this person just has problems. How many employers in small business out there or in larger situations actually know what to look for. How many abusers of one type or another actually slip under the radar as just being a bit lazy when it actually could be a serious problem that could be getting worse.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think if you had gone into some situations looking hard for problems you might have found a few. Do you think if you had actual knowledge of how people lived their life you might have found different things. Remember alcoholics and drug abusers can hide problems or at least the real depth of them from their own families for years. Maybe because of my dislike for illegal drugs I look harder than many would and I probably should have been looking just as hard for the legal ones. Am I just on a witch hunt or is there a chance the problems are out there more than we realize. Are there numbers of accidents not real serious out there that are just written off when actually there are more in depth problems involved.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby keith1612 » Dec 6th, 2012, 5:30 pm

Smurf wrote:could that be mistaken for what you are describing.

Yes there were a number that as you politely state had problems beyond their control. However while living in such close proximity with these people I also realized that behind closed doors or not, many of these people were causing their own problems. Some of the people you would normally think were slow and lazy were actually under the infuence of something not easily detectable. They were probably that way when they started work so it was never noticed. In todays world that might be picked up in the oil fields where they do some testing and there again what if it is a prescription drug (pain killer) that is affecting them. Are they refused employment? Also what happens in the cases you are talking about Mitch where you assume right or wrong that this person just has problems. How many employers in small business out there or in larger situations actually know what to look for. How many abusers of one type or another actually slip under the radar as just being a bit lazy when it actually could be a serious problem that could be getting worse.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this. [color=#400040]Do you think if you had gone into some situations looking hard for problems you might have found a few[/color]. Do you think if you had actual knowledge of how people lived their life you might have found different things. Remember alcoholics and drug abusers can hide problems or at least the real depth of them from their own families for years. Maybe because of my dislike for illegal drugs I look harder than many would and I probably should have been looking just as hard for the legal ones. Am I just on a witch hunt or is there a chance the problems are out there more than we realize. Are there numbers of accidents not real serious out there that are just written off when actually there are more in depth problems involved.



you just nailed it right there.
when people start worrying too much about what others are doing and searching for problems they tend to find them regardless.
if you sit on the side of the road and watch every car looking for errors they appear.
are they major or just everyday errors is the question.
usually things get blown out of proportion way too fast over a real non issue.
true people on the job site with real drinking or drug issues flush themselves down the drain fast, they dont need help.
any foreman worth keeping on the job should be able to pick out those traits within a week usually max.
casual users with the odd hangover are not a issue.
looking for problems steady is usually a sign of someone who isnt doing their own job themselves.
let the boss run the company unless you really see a danger situation.
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Re: Drugs and the workplace, is it a concern?

Postby Smurf » Dec 7th, 2012, 8:49 am

Actually I agree with most of what you say Keith. The only problems being:

1) As a safety officer it was my job to have my eye open for this type of thing. I did job site inspections on a regular basis.
2) When watching for them I did see a lot.
3) Many times the worker is in a better place to see things as the Foreman isn't always around. From my experience seldom on a larger job

I agree the bad ones get weeded out but I'm not sure about the casual user being a not issue. I saw just as many problems with them as the serious users. They did not seem to handle their impairement as well as someone who was used to it. I saw as many if not more problems caused by them and it was worse because people were not watching for them like they were the regulars.
Just like many of the impaired driving accidents are caused by casual users with bad luck the same thing happens with impaired workers. It can be someones first time and a bit of bad luck. Impaired is impaired and is dangerous whether you do it once or regularily. A funny thing is it is often the casual that gets in trouble and the regular abuser seems to get away with it.
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