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Definition - What does Impairment mean?

An impairment is an umbrella term that defines an inability to perform job task(s) based on a mental or physical deficit that can lead to adverse health effects. Substance use, chronic fatigue, and ongoing stress can cause impairment on the job. A holistic approach to reducing impairments in the workplace falls on a dual premise to keep a safe work environment for all employees and conserve human rights laws.

SureHire explains Impairment

On the surface, an impairment can point to a case related to alcohol or drug use. Visible signs include glassy/red eyes, slurred speech, poor motor skills, and an awkward gait. Other telltale signs can range from a lack of focus to inefficient work practices. However, in a broader sense, an impairment can have secondary implications linked to a separate issue. For example, a worker who uses cannabis for medical reasons might show impairment at work. Also, low morale from high job demands and compounded stress play into the mix. Hence, employers must recognize signs from behaviour patterns to job performance as warnings against suspected impairment. Psychosocial cues, such as a failed drug test, near-incident(s), and unsafe work habits, lend proof to that end.

In Canada, an overarching need to endorse health and safety rules tempered by human rights laws can receive pushback. The challenge for employers falls under the banner that alcohol and drug dependency is a disability. Thus, a duty to accommodate a person who seeks treatment in a drug-relief program can still lead to an impairment case at work. For this reason, the zero-tolerance policy should provide neutral terms of how an impairment(s) can cause an accident(s) on the job.

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