Workplace dangers for synthetic cannabis products

7 July 2011

The NZ forest industry have been a frontrunner for Drug and Alcohol free workplace policies in NZ and now boasts a very positive and committed workforce

The NZ Forest Owners Association who lead such policy for the forest industry is committed to retain the effectiveness of it’s policy and the resulting workplace culture. The introduction and use of synthetic cannabis products in NZ and in particular with our forest industry workforce is a major concern and industry will move quickly to ensure that the current policy is amended to adequately cater for the new substances.

Our forest industry has many potential dangers for those who are not fully aware and alert therefore the issue of “impairment” thru drug and alcohol use is a huge concern to us. Employers are legally bound to “take all practicable steps” to ensure safety so in our business all tasks which are “safety sensitive”, which is almost all forest industry jobs, must be drug and alcohol free.

The forest industry has an enviable record of constantly reducing its occurrence of serious harm injury per million hrs worked, albeit thru a period of constant industry expansion. The industry works in a concerted manner on various fronts including worker training and certification, machinery design, systems improvements, etc, however a key component to the overall safety record improvements is the Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace Policy. This policy has been in place with our industry for more than 8 years now but a major review and re launch was effected 4 years ago to include testing of a wider range of drugs on a random testing basis. The introduction of synthetic substances may require further system improvements but the industry is committed to making such changes as required.

The most gratifying result from implementing this workplace policy is the very positive and progressive attitude from our workforce. Several years into the policy it became very apparent that workers took ownership of their “clean” workplace and they are protective about retaining such a quality work environment. Workers who have Drug and Alcohol habits clearly cannot exist any longer among our crews. They have choices however, there is rehabilitation available, followed by frequent random testing to ensure no impairment, the alternative being to leave the industry. It has been pleasing to see at least a portion of those who previously had such habits clean up their lives and make very positive changes to their futures.

The NZ Forest Owners Assn works very closely with the Dept of Labour and ACC who make every effort to assist us in the implementation of such improvements to our workplace.

Sheldon Drummond

Chairman of NZ Forest Owners Assn Health Safety and Training Committee