Fit for Duty and Mental Health Supports – Barriers to Implementation
I’ve been watching and listening to the push in the ICI sector to have or create better Fit for Duty and mental health training programs to support supervisors and workers.
To be effective, and in some cases, to meet legislative requirements, these programs must be implemented on a company-wide scale and must include supervisor and employee training.
Over the years, I’ve spoken with many companies, HR professionals, managers and supervisors in the ICI sector as well as many other industries. These are some common reasons why companies don’t train supervisors and workers on Fit for Duty or mental health issues.
Reason #1. We have a Fit for Duty and/or mental health policy, so we are covered.
Many senior managers, supervisors and HR professionals I’ve spoken to believe that having policies written to explain how the company responds to Fit for Duty and mental health concerns is sufficient to protect the company. I understand how this can feel comforting. Unfortunately, it’s a false sense of security. Policies alone are not enough. Fit for Duty and mental health policies must be followed up with training.
Reason #2. Fear of loss of productivity because of treating addiction and/or mental health concerns.
Some companies know or suspect there is a large Fit for Duty and/or mental health problem with their workers and don’t implement a policy and/or training program because they are worried about falling behind on jobs and/or a loss of specialized workers if workers are being treated.
Reason #3. Belief that an EAP covers everything.
The responsibilities of an employer are not fully discharged by having an EAP program.
Many, many employers and HR professionals said to me they don’t need training programs because they have an EAP to help employees who have a Fit for Duty or mental health problem. They believe that this is enough.
This viewpoint ignores the fact that employers must “Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.” OHSA s 25 (2) h. This broad statement clearly involves more than an EAP.
Reason #4. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Some companies view Fit for Duty and/or mental health concerns as important, but since nothing has happened on their jobsites, they forget about it. This is perilous. They may also believe that none of their workers have a problem. Just because an incident hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. About 1 in 10 workers has an alcohol or drug problem.
Reason #5. Confused about, unaware of, or overwhelmed by Fit for Duty requirements.
This can sometimes be related to the size of the company. Small and mid-sized companies may not have the personnel, knowledge and/or resources to implement a Fit for Duty and/or mental health program.
Basically, companies have a legal duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to “Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.”
Practically, this means a company has to have a Fit for Duty policy that is compliant with The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and must train all supervisors and workers on that policy.
Alcohol and substance use are potential hazards on the jobsite. The company must train both its supervisors and workers on signs to watch for both in others and themselves, and how to deal with them.
This could provide a company with a legal defense because they could show through their policy and training records that they have taken precautions. It can be viewed as a kind of insurance policy should an incident happen.
I can make it painless. I’ve developed and implemented national drug and alcohol training programs. My sector specific training has allowed companies to remove impaired workers from jobsites within a few days of completing the training.
Give me a call.
By: Julian Toy H.S.C. Substance Abuse Professional
Member of The Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals
If you have questions, need training or literature, please contact Julian directly:
Direct Line: 905-866-7301
Services: Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol policy development, Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol training, Employee Substance Abuse Assessments and COVID 19 Mental Health Training, Preferred provider of Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol training Eastern Construction Ltd.