Fit For Duty
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"Fit for duty" refers to the workers’ ability to safely undertake the demands of their job. An individual is considered fit for duty if they are in a physical, physiological, and psychological condition to perform the tasks safely. When workers are not fit for duty, a variety of terms can describe this such as impaired, unfit for work and not fit for duty. Fit for duty assessments, often referred to as Functional Abilities Evaluations, are typically performed to determine medical fitness after an illness or injury, but are sometimes done after employment has been offered, as requested by the employer, or as a condition of a job transfer. For example, traffic control signallers may often be required to complete fit for duty assessments to ensure they are in good physical and mental condition to perform their duties.
While not the same as the return to work process, the employer is responsible for assessing the worker’s capabilities and making reasonable accommodations if necessary.
Physical conditions usually refer to having to do with our bodies themselves, such as physical demands, vision, hearing, etc. It may also refer to the work environment, such as providing a space that has adequate lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels.
Physiological conditions can refer to the body’s functions and processes. Included in this category is the effect of what might happen, for example, when a drug is given to a person. Examples may include fatigue, drugs, alcohol, workplace exposure, etc.
Please see the impairment topic for more information.
Psychological conditions deal with the functions of the emotional and mental state of a person and their reactions to different factors. Examples may include stress, feeling overwhelmed, culture, emotional state, risk tolerance, etc.
Employers have a duty to take every reasonable precaution to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace. This duty includes providing the information, instruction, training and supervision needed to protect workers and to make sure workers and supervisors are familiar with hazards.
Employers have the responsibility to make sure their workers are fit for duty. Issues that may distract a person from focusing on their tasks include those that may be related to family or relationship situations, fatigue (mental or physical), traumatic shock, impairment, shiftwork or long hours of work, boring or monotonous repetitive tasks, or medical conditions or treatments. Employers have the right to inquire and request medical assessments to ensure a worker is fit for duty. However, remember that there are limitations about the amount of information a worker must disclose (such as their diagnosis) nor may the employer have access to the worker’s personal health information.
Fit for duty policy
Employers should develop a policy that outlines what actions will be taken when there are concerns about the physical, physiological, and psychological condition of a worker that may have an impact on the workplace or when the condition puts the safety of the person or others at risk. For example, the employer should develop a mechanism for workers to confidentially report when they have been prescribed a medication or treatment that may cause impairment or inability to perform tasks appropriately. This mechanism can also be used when workers feel they might be otherwise unable to perform their work safely (e.g., fatigue, distress, distraction, feeling unwell).
These policies will assist to:
- Ensure the employer's due diligence with respect to the safety in the workplace;
- Establish the procedures needed to minimize the risk;
- Identify roles and responsibilities;
- Identify reporting procedures;
- Provide support, such as an employee assistance program (EAP);
- Make sure supervisors and workers are adequately trained on how to recognize when an individual is fit for duty; and
- Outline the consequences of not being fit for duty when at work, including disciplinary action.
When an employer is considering if there is a risk to the individual’s safety or the safety of others, they can ask these questions:
- Does the worker have the ability to perform the job or task safely (e.g., driving, operating machinery, use of sharp objects)?
- Is there an impact on the worker’s cognitive ability or judgement?
- Are there other concerns, such as side effects of a medical condition or the treatment that needs to be considered?
Each situation should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
- Take all reasonable precautions to prevent injuries to themselves and others who are at or near their workplace.
- Cooperate with the employer.
Workers should work in a manner so they do not endanger themselves or other people in the workplace. This duty applies, for example, to disclose to your employer your need to use prescription drugs that could cause impairment, as well as any drug and alcohol dependencies that could affect the safety of yourself and your co-workers. Another scenario may be to discuss excess noise in your work area that may be causing annoyance or stress, or is interfering with the ability to hear instructions due to hearing loss related to aging.
Part 50 TRAFFIC CONTROL
Section 50.4 Qualifications
50.4 The employer shall ensure that signallers
(a) are competent persons over the age of sixteen years who have been trained in, and have demonstrated an adequate knowledge of traffic control and signalling procedures;
(b) have such training as the Director may require;
(c) have a thorough knowledge of the regulations contained in this Part;
(d) are in good physical and mental condition;
(e) have adequate eyesight and hearing to carry out their duties;
(f) hold a certificate of training and shall produce proof of training at the request of an officer.
[EC225/91, s. 1]
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. O-1.01
Section 12 Duties of employers
12. (1) An employer shall ensure
(a) that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace;
(b) that any item, device, material, equipment or machinery provided for the use of workers at a workplace is properly maintained, and is properly equipped with the safety features or devices, as recommended by the manufacturer or required by the regulations;
(c) that such information, instruction, training, supervision and facilities are provided as are necessary to ensure the occupational health and safety of the workers;
(d) that workers and supervisors are familiar with occupational health or safety hazards at the workplace;
(e) that workers are made familiar with the proper use of all safety features or devices, equipment and clothing required for their protection; and
(f) that the employer's undertaking is conducted so that workers are not exposed to occupational health or safety hazards as a result of the undertaking.
(2) An employer shall
(a) consult and cooperate with the joint occupational health and safety committee or the representative, as applicable;
(b) cooperate with any person performing a duty or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations;
(c) provide such additional training of committee members as may be prescribed by the regulations;
(d) comply with this Act and the regulations and ensure that workers at the workplace comply with this Act and the regulations; and
(e) where an occupational health and safety policy or occupational health and safety program is required under this Act, establish the policy or program.
(3) An employer shall establish and implement as a policy, in accordance with the regulations, measures to prevent and investigate occurrences of harassment in the workplace.
[S.P.E.I. 2018, c. 45, s. 3]
Section 16 Duties of worker
16. (1) A worker, while at work, shall
(a) take every reasonable precaution to protect the worker's own occupational health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace;
(b) cooperate with the employer and with the other workers to protect the worker's own occupational health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace;
(c) wear or use such individual protective equipment as is required by this Act and the regulations;
(d) consult and cooperate with the committee or representative, if any;
(e) cooperate with any person performing a duty or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations; and
(f) comply with this Act and the regulations and any policy or program established by an employer pursuant to this Act or the regulations.
(2) Where a worker believes that any item, device, material, equipment or machinery, condition or aspect of the workplace is or may be dangerous to the worker's occupational health or safety or that of other persons at or near the workplace, the worker
(a) shall immediately report it to a supervisor;
(b) shall, where the matter is not remedied to the worker's satisfaction, report it to the committee or the representative, if any; and
(c) may, where the matter is not remedied to the worker's satisfaction after the worker reports it in accordance with clauses (a) and (b), report it to an officer.
(3) Clause (2)(b) does not apply in respect of a complaint of harassment in the workplace.
[S.P.E.I. 2018, c. 45, s. 4]