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Westray Bill & Weed: Understanding Bill C-45


Understanding the Implications of Bill C-45

You may be familiar with Bill C-45, otherwise known as the Cannabis Act, a piece of legislation that legalized weed throughout Canada – but what does this mean for the workplace?

Read on to learn more about Bill C-45, what it means for employers, employees & organizations and how to stay compliant & safe at work.


Bill C-45, also known as the Westray Bill, was legislation enacted as law to Canada’s Criminal Code in 2004. Bill C-45 was created following the Westray Mining tragedy, where 26 miners died due to preventable, unsafe work conditions. In a report made after the tragedy, the owner of the mine, Curragh Resources, safety inspectors and even politicians’ were found to all have some sort of responsibility for the tragedy.

This legislation aimed to create legal responsibility for companies regarding workplace health and safety. It detailed rules to attribute criminal liability to organizations, and those who direct the work of others, like supervisors, managers, or anyone else with the responsibility of directing/supervising others. This specification is made because sometimes, a job title doesn’t specify whether they are responsible to manage others and assign responsibilities & duties.

The 2004 bill amended the criminal code to place responsibility on organizations and others responsible. Sections 217.1, 22.1 and 22.2 were added. These sections state:


217.1—Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”


22.1—In respect of an offence that requires the prosecution to prove negligence, an organization is a party to the offence if (a) acting within the scope of their authority, (i) one of its representatives is a party to the offence, or (ii) two or more of its representatives engage in conduct, whether by act or omission, such that, if it had been the conduct of only one representative, that representative would have been a party to the offence; and (b) the senior officer who is responsible for the aspect of the organization’s activities that is relevant to the offence departs – or the senior officers, collectively, depart – markedly from the standard of care that, in the circumstances, could reasonably be expected to prevent a representative of the organization from being a party to the offence.


22.2—In respect of an offence that requires the prosecution to prove fault — other than negligence — an organization is a party to the offence if, with the intent at least in part to benefit the organization, one of its senior officers (a) acting within the scope of their authority, is a party to the offence; (b) having the mental state required to be a party to the offence and acting within the scope of their authority, directs the work of other representatives of the organization so that they do the act or make the omission specified in the offence; or (c) knowing that a representative of the organization is or is about to be a party to the offence, does not take all reasonable measures to stop them from being a party to the offence.”


In 2017, the cannabis act was proposed as part of Bill C-45 and was introduced to Parliament in April, 2017. Marijuana was legalized for recreational use throughout Canada in October 2018 – with this, of course, comes potential safety issues for both employers and employees.


There are limited studies about how weed impacts those in the workplace (for obvious reasons) – however, there are quite a few well-known side effects that generally, will impact the way you work. Symptoms of marijuana use include:

  • Dizziness, drowsiness, feeling faint or light-headed, fatigue, headache(s)
  • Impaired memory and disturbances in attention, concentration and ability to think and make decisions
  • Disorientation, confusion, feeling drunk, feeling abnormal or having abnormal thoughts, feeling “too high”, feelings of unreality, feeling an extreme slowing of time
  • Suspiciousness, nervousness, episodes of anxiety that resemble a panic attack, paranoia (loss of contact with reality), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that don’t exist)
  • Impairment of motor skills and perception, altered bodily perceptions, losing control of bodily movements, falls
  • Dry mouth, throat irritation, coughing
  • Worsening of seizures
  • Hypersensitivity (worsening of dermatitis or hives)
  • Higher or lower blood levels of certain medications
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat

Overall, Health Canada (2016) says about cannabis-use, “Using cannabis or any cannabis product can impair your concentration, your ability to think and make decisions, and your reaction time and coordination. This can affect your motor skills, including your ability to drive. It can also increase anxiety and cause panic attacks, and in some cases cause paranoia and hallucinations.

You should not be impaired at work under any circumstances – but particularly if you work in an industry that relies strongly on safety standards, or risk & hazard assessment to keep yourself and others safe. As we mentioned in the list above, marijuana can impair your ability to think clearly and your motor-skill ability & agility. Its effects can last up to 24-hours.



As Bill C-45 states, employers in Canada have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for employees and take reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of workers. Employers must show due diligence by creating safety precautions before an accident occurs – not after. How does an employer do this?

Well, there are many factors to consider when it comes to workplace safety and both employers and employees play a role to make it happen. Here are easy steps you can take to stay compliant, and have transparent communication with staff about weed at work:

  • Does your organization have an EFAP (Employee & Family Assistance Program) in place? Typically, this gives employees a private, confidential place to ask questions about the resources available to help with issues like stress, depression and addiction. They will often, at no charge to the employee, tell you what kind of services are available to deal with these issues, and if your employee benefits will help you access them.


Employees have a responsibility to show up ready to work and keep themselves, and others safe – employees must work sober, alert and take measures to not be fatigued, all of which increase the risk of injury.

Have questions about our workplace safety? Hercules SLR will lift you there.

Click here to learn more about safety training courses at Hercules SLR.