Supreme Court decision on randomized alcohol testing

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Nine Alberta energy and construction companies including Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Limited and Total E&P were taking part in a two-year pilot to develop effective alcohol and drug testing. The Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Pilot Project (DARRPP) includes random drug testing, which will begin later this year.

DARRPP administrator Pat Atkins was still optimistic that the organization would succeed in its efforts to introduce random testing to specific companies and industries.

“We see the decision as support what we’re doing. It’s clear that [random testing] can be justifiable in situations where there is inherent risk and evidence of a problem. In our industry we feel both are in place,” Atkins said. “It’s very important to us to keep workers and workplaces safe and we think there are legitimate risks and problems there. There are processes in place for workers to get help and we have a number of companies, contractors and labour organizations on side to move ahead with this.”

The pilot had integrated the principles of human rights and privacy into its policies, Atkins said. She said there was evidence of problems with drugs and alcohol on worksites in Alberta, and the circumstances at the Irving mill were not the same as those in the western province.

Last year Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal told HRM Online the company’s “number one priority” was to provide a safe workplace for all employees, contractors and visitors to their sites.

“Drugs and alcohol use is an issue that affects the safety of our people and our workplace posing an unacceptable risk on our worksites,” Seetal said. “We have a comprehensive system including safety initiatives, education, training and support for those who need assistance. Random testing is one of the tools we will use to fulfill our commitment to provide a safe workplace.”

Suncor started its randomized drug and alcohol testing program in October last year, but was stopped by a court injunction.

When can you test employees:

  • With considerable warning
    In 2004, Petro-Canada gave employees at an Alberta site two months’ notice for drug testing, and workers who failed were laid off. The arbitrator found this was reasonable.
  • After an accident
    Assessing a workplace accident can often include drug or alcohol testing, however, be aware as an employer that you have a duty to accommodate any individual with a substance abuse problem.
  • When there is a demonstrated problem
    Especially common with individuals with addiction problems who are being accommodated. An accommodation requirement is often passing random alcohol or drug testing.

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