Updated: 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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  • An Expat on 2013-06-14 11:20:29 AM

    Another disgusting erosion of employer rights.

    Don't be surprised if in the near future, there will be no employee hiring.

    Companies will go to term limited contract workers with no benefits, or move the work offshore. Employees, see how you enjoy your privacy then!

  • Michael de la Place on 2013-06-14 1:09:31 PM

    Did the board not consider that Irving does not have a serious problem BECAUSE they were doing the testing????

  • B. P. on 2013-06-14 1:17:14 PM

    To listen to 'Ex-Pats' comment on this issue seems to be reactionary instead of well thought and reflective....the issue of employees' rights must be balanced with those concerns of the employer--should they come into conflict, then the tie must go the employee, as giving 'carte-blanche' to employers to conduct such testing randomly infringes unnecessarily into the personal lives of the individual. Throughout the years, employers have had to watch for this kind of conduct and the vast majority of workers are responsible sorts and fear the penalties that irresponsible conduct will light on their shoulders. The workplace will correct itself on this issue and a blanket series of testing is uncalled for.

  • An Expat on 2013-06-14 2:20:39 PM

    I'd bet that B.P. above would be the first one to sue under the guise of workplace safety when drunken or stoned George drives his fork truck into the fuel storage tank killing several of his fellow workers in the ensuing inferno.

    On an issue of safety, there should be no margin of error, no intrusion into the workers conduct, too intrusive.

    As for employee rights - they have the ultimate right - to quit - if they don't like the work conditions.

    Not too long ago, a company was censured for acquiring photographic evidence of one of their workers having a dope break before returning to the assembly line. He had been a long term problem, so they took a picture of him smoking up. The same sad court ruled the company did not have the right to take said picture of him because, while he was still on company property (the parking lot) stoner Joe had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his pickup truck. To be clear, it was not medical maryjane.

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