19 Apr Marijuana: A Growing Workplace Hazard for Young Workers
‘It’s what the guys are doing on their breaks,’ according to one high school student working at a franchise of a national grocery store chain. And he’s not talking about resting their tired backs from all the boxes of soup cans they’ve restocked on to shelves. ‘They light up in the back where no one can see them.’ What they’re lighting up are marijuana joints they’ve rolled before coming to work. For some, just as much a part of their pre-work ritual as packing a lunch and charging their phones.
The list of reasons this is happening is a long one. An activity that was once more closely associated with peer pressure and cues taken from popular culture influences is now in the news every day as something that is being validated by imminent legalization and storefront availability.
The fact that young people are partaking in a habit that may inhibit their ability to learn and have other negative long term effects is disturbing. These same people getting high literally during a work shift in which they may come in to contact with workplace hazards is downright frightening and great cause for concern.
Sadly, their behavior, like other dangerous workplace behavior, may also be due to the influence of older individuals around them who share the same habits. There have been notable workplace tragedies associated with drug usage. The four construction workers who fell to their deaths in 2009 in Ontario were under the influence of marijuana. Their foreman, also high, allowed them to work without proper protective equipment.
This is another example of how parents and other adult influencers of young people need to be aware of what they are dealing with each day at work.
Of course one of the big issues is to get young people to open up about anything, never mind something that is illegal. There is one approach that comes to mind that has been proven to yield positive results.
Listening. It is easy to castigate the young people around us for using drugs and for good reason, given their adverse effects. Unfortunately, taking that approach can cause walls to go up and create a dynamic that sees young people clam up and be unwilling to share information of any kind for fear of retribution.
By being less reactive and seek to find out more about our children’s experiences, doors will open that may uncover new information about what they are actually dealing with each day in their workplaces. This openness to listening in an unjudgmental way will be reciprocated by a new willingness to listen to reason relating to the dangers of working around hazards under the influence of drugs such as marijuana. This approach can be the basis for new dialogue and the opportunity for us to have a more effective and impactful effect on our chidren’s well-being every time they go to work.