Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
The high court of New Brunswick has ruled that if a work environment is considered inherently dangerous, there is no need for evidence of an existing alcohol problem before implementing a random testing policy.
The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick decision, dated July 7, 2011, centres on the testing policy used by Irving pulp and paper Limited for employees and safety-sensitive positions of the Company’s Kraft paper mill in Saint John.
Chemical plants and railway operations have been classified as inherently dangerous work environments, Justice Joseph Robertson writes in his ruling. As such, the decision notes there is no need to show evidence of an existing problem to justify a random testing policy.
The decision states that hazardous materials such as chlorine dioxide, sulphuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, liquid and gaseous oxygen and methanol are all used at the mill. Employees also load and unload chemicals from railcars and other vehicles. “It makes no sense that a railway operation is entitled to adopt a policy of random alcohol testing, but the customer uses the toxic chemicals in it’s manufacturing process is not,” Justice Robertson writes.
The policy – which applies to employees, including supervisors, who hold safety-sensitive positions – has been in place since February 2006, reports Geoff Britt, Communications officer for the mill’s parent company, J.D. Irving Limited.
Over any 12-month period, the court ruling notes that an off-site to computer selects 10% of the names on a list of 334 employees for random testing. A breathalyzer result that is positive (measuring a blood-alcohol level of greater than 0.04 percent) constitutes a violation of the policy and can result in discipline, up to termination.
Between 1991 and January 2006, the mill recorded eight alcohol -related incidents, five of these involving an employee who showed up for work under the influence of alcohol. Since adopting testing, no employee has tested positive.
“We are pleased with the appeal court decision and the decision suggests we found the balance of our obligation to provide a safe workplace and at the same time respect our employee’s rights,” Britt says.
We all have to deal with basic human rights but on the worksite, how do we protect the workers from themselves? A random drug and alcohol policy is something that was needed here and I do agree with the decision. I realize many may feel that ‘Big Brother’ is watching but ponder this, what about the workers who do not use alcohol or drugs at all of in minimal amounts? They deserve to work in a safe work environment as does everyone and, to that effect, Irving Pulp and Paper Limited of New Brunswick instituted the proper policy at the appropriate time.
HRS Group Inc. is proud to have a reputation for zero tolerance in the workplace. A safe place is a happy place and a happy place is a productive place. A productive place means money for all and both the employer and employee must realize that safety MUST be the driving force on any worksite.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.