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

Dr. Paul Sobey; Dr. Carson McPherson, Suncor Energy

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.