OPINION: Have those backing reform thought through the implications for construction worksites?

By September 10, 2020 Recent News

More cannabis use not what the construction sector needs
Stuff co.nz 11 September 2020
Our additional comment: “The 2019 Civil Contractors NZ annual report highlighted legalised cannabis as an issue looming over the construction sector with 65 per cent of respondents saying it would negatively impact their operations as businesses were already struggling with staff recruitment due to substance abuse – in effect removing them pending a clear drug test.
From a health and safety perspective, construction sites are hazardous and dangerous work areas, and require employees to be alert.”
Of course!

OPINION: The upcoming general election and the referenda, including the proposed legalisation of cannabis, pose a concerning dilemma for the construction industry.

The construction industry is one of New Zealand’s largest employers and anecdotally we suspect that many of our 250,000 workers already routinely abuse drugs like alcohol, methamphetamine and, to a lesser degree, cannabis.

Unlike alcohol, cannabis can stay in the human body for several weeks. If employees return a positive drug test in that time they are unable to work and contribute to society.

Medically it is acknowledged that the active psychedelic ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produces the “high” effect, also impairs and affects people’s judgement because it alters the way information is processed by the brain.

This impairment occurs over the time that THC stays in the fatty tissues of a person’s body and can impair motor performance, cause loss of balance and coordination, decrease attentiveness and alertness, prolong response time to stimuli and danger, and decrease the ability to judge distance and space.

If recreational use of cannabis is allowed in the September referendum, then construction companies will also be required to introduce pre-selection drug testing of employees – many are already doing this – and the issue then also becomes one of finding and hiring enough drug-free workers who can pass the pre-employment screening.

The legalisation of cannabis in the referendum is a simple yes or no question and so most people being asked to make a very critical decision on a powerful drug will be unaware of the potential consequences for the New Zealand workplace, including the construction sector.

Perhaps the question should be asked if cannabis is legalised will the Government pay businesses compensation for employees who are unable to work following a positive drug test or change the employment legislation allowing for faster failed drug test dismissals without any recourse to personal grievance procedures?

There will be both social and economic impacts arising if there is a legalisation of cannabis. But have our legislators fully thought through all of the implications if a larger proportion of the construction workforce is unable to work at a time of economic recovery where keeping jobs and growth in a post-Covid-19 environment will be paramount? Hopefully the voting population are smarter than that.
Gary Walker is chair of the Construction Strategy Group and general manager, Fletcher Construction, buildings.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/300104507/more-cannabis-use-not-what-the-construction-sector-needs?cid=app-iPhone