Addiction, Recovery & the Safety Sensitive Workplace: Current Reality & a Path Forward

Dr. Paul Sobey; Dr. Carson McPherson, Eileen Maloneywhite and Darren Erickson

April 13th 2022 Stephen Room, this is a 2-hour two part session.

Part 1 – 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Part 2 – 1:30 pm to 2 :30 pm

Session Description

Those working in the construction sector are disproportionately impacted by substance use and related challenges1,2.  Construction workers are also at higher risk for disability compared to the general workforce2.  A report from British Columbia’s Fraser Health Authority showed that the building trades sector was found to be the most common industry whereby men were admitted to hospital following serious non-fatal overdoses in private residences1.  The risk and costs associated with undiagnosed, untreated, or under-treated substance use and related challenges within the construction sector are immense. These detrimental impacts range from lost productivity (lost value of work due to premature death, long and short-term disability (absenteeism, injuries and impaired job performance due to substance use and impairment)4 to increased healthcare costs and in some cases fatalities3.  Just as the workplace can exacerbate substance use and related challenges, such environments can and should be conducive to initiating and maintaining recovery.  This presentation will provide a comprehensive review of the challenges facing the construction and other safety/decision sensitive sectors as well as strategies and best practice models to initiate and maintain recovery-oriented initiatives in the workplace.

Learning Objective

  • A comprehensive understanding of the of current challenges and opportunities for progress facing the construction and similar safety sensitive workplaces;
  • General overview of the state of workplace policies and management of substance use challenges within the construction sector;
  • Learn to identify substance use and related problems in the workplace, often considered ‘invisible disabilities’;
  • Approaches to responding to substance use and related challenges in the workplace as well as effective return to work and recovery management initiatives;
  • Learn about current evidence-based treatment approaches, harm reduction strategies and how they relate to occupational addiction medicine.


  1. Alberta Health Services – Addiction and Mental Health (2010). Workplace addiction and mental health in the construction industry: Literature synthesis. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Author.
  2. Canadian Mental Health Association. (2019). Impairment in the Workplace –What your organization needs to know. Retrieved from
  3. CSUCH. Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms. Retrieved from
  4. Fraser Health. The Hidden Epidemic: The Opioid Overdose Emergency in Fraser Health. January 2018.


Dr. Paul Sobey

Dr. Sobey completed his medical training at the University of Alberta in 1986, and a fellowship in Addictions at University of Cleveland Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University in 1989. He received Board Certification from the American Board of Addiction Medicine in 2010 and became a certificate of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine in 2012, and is a Clinical Instructor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, Department of Family Practice.

Dr. Sobey was formerly the Regional Divisional Lead for Addictions in Fraser Health Authority from April 2011 to May 2013. He was on the Member Advisory Committee on Opiate Dependence – College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) from 2002 to 2013 and was Chair of the committee from 2011 until 2013. He is also the former chair of CPSBC Methadone Maintenance Committee.

Dr. Sobey is a full-time addiction medicine physician and is currently the lead physician and an addiction medicine consultant for the Royal Columbian Hospital Addiction Medicine Service in New Westminster, BC. He also acts as an Occupational Addiction Medicine consultant to both public and private organizations. He has an active methadone practice in New Westminster and also works in abstinence-based care.

Dr. Carson McPherson

Carson holds a Doctor of Social Science, Master of Science, and Master of Business Administration degrees.

Carson brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization, as well as a passion for recovery-oriented treatment. As a leader in both addiction care and research, Carson has presented at numerous national conferences and has published a variety of peer-reviewed research in the area of substance use, chronic pain, health systems, knowledge mobilization and family system impacts of addiction.

Carson is also the Senior Advisor for Recovery Research at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, sits on the National Policy Committee for the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and is a member of the Board for the BC Recovery Council. In addition, he is an adjunct faculty member at Vancouver Island University.


Ms. White is an accomplished Credentialed Occupational Health Nurse; she is the Vice President of the Canadian Occupational Health Nurses Association and is a former director on the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses; she is a member of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Aerospace Medical Association, and the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine. She is the secretary for the Canadian Chapter of the International Nurses Society on Addictions. She serves as an advisor on the advisory committee on the Substance Use & Addictions Program (SUAP) with Health Canada. She is a mentor in Occupational Health Nursing for the Canadian Nurses Association and is a contributor to the Nurse Wellness Network which addresses the struggles of nurses who use substances.

Ms. White is a lecturer and presenter on maintaining safe and healthy workplaces, addiction in the workplace and corporate wellness.

She is a certified addictions counsellor & recovery coach, certified psychological health & safety advisor. She is a legal nurse consultant certified specialist and is a Fellow with the American College of Legal Nurse Consultants.

Darren Erickson

Although I have trained as an engineer and held various technical and leadership roles in my 20 years working in refineries in western Canada and the US, my ‘real’ education comes from listening to colleagues, friends and family who work in the trades; from hands-on-tools to CEOs.  Currently, while working with my team of supply chain professionals in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, we are listening to understand and help solve the challenges that our industry and many trade workers are experiencing.  As a result of their struggles, many highly skilled trades people are leaving the industry.  As such, it is critical that our industries, contractor companies, labour organizations and support services work together to attract, support and retain the skilled trades required for our essential services.  It is through collaboration and working towards a common goal of viability of Canada’s energy industry that together we can address the looming threat of labor shortages.