South Africa has a problem of substance usage and the use of dagga has increased significantly in the past year due to the recent Constitutional Court judgment to de-criminalise the private consumption of cannabis, also known as marijuana and “dagga”. This court judgment has resulted in many employers being faced with employees who feel they may now partake in cannabis during working hours, as it is “legal”. It is important that employees be made aware of what the Occupational Health and Safety Act says of the effects of substance use, especially in the workplace.
Most company policies cater for the use of illegal substances while at work, but these policies need to be updated to reflect new regulations after the use of cannabis in private was de-criminalise. The Occupational Health and Safety Act specifically says no employer may allow any persons to enter or remain in the workplace if they appear to be under the influence of liquor or drugs, or to be in possession of, partake in, or offer others intoxicating liquor or drugs.
Studies show that cannabis could affect an employee’s occupational capacity and therefore workplace policies should explicitly state the repercussions for arriving at work under the influence - be it from alcohol usage, cannabis, or any other mind-altering substance. The workplace policies must be made known to every employee and it is recommended that these employees personally sign copies of the policies to indicate that they know and understand the policy and they will abide by the rules. Every employee must be made aware that being under the influence of marijuana at work could lead to accidents and, if detected, will lead to disciplinary inquiries which will probably lead to dismissal.
Very often dagga is smoked together with other drugs which makes it a lot more dangerous at the workplace. Use of substances can also lead to impulsive behaviour and poor judgement. Sometimes, drug abuse can actually increase a user's risk of developing a mental disorder. The longer an addiction lasts, the more stress and strain it puts on the individual and, while different substances have different effects, depression, anxiety and paranoia are among the most common long-term results of substance abuse.
This article was submitted by Mpho-Entle Consultants, who offer policy formulation through training and workshops. They can also assist in creating awareness about substance use in the workplace.
This article was submitted by Dr Peter Tobin.