Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine Sept. 2014)
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) says it will be asking the Superior Court of Quebec to stay a recent arbitration decision, which ruled that a locomotive engineer who used cocaine had to be reinstated.
The July 14, 2014 decision from the Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration and Dispute Resolution ordered CP to reinstate the worker, without loss of seniority and without compensation for any wages or benefits lost. Arbitrator Michel Picher also ordered the employee to be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing for two years following his return to work.
The case dates back to December 27, 2012, when the locomotive engineer tested positive for cocaine while working at the company’s Saint Luc Yard in Montreal. On that day, the worker’s train ran through a main line crossover switch derailing one locomotive. The worker was ordered to submit a post-incident test, which showed that the employee had used cocaine with 24 hours of his availability for duty.
The worker’s union, The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, argued the firing had been excessive and breached the collective agreement in place and the Canadian Human Rights Act, including the duty to accommodate.
Picher noted that the worker hade been involved in rehabilitation through individual and group sessions between October 2013 and March 2014.
“It is trite to say cocaine dependence is a form of disability, which bears appropriate accommodations, to the point of undue hardship,” he wrote. “On the whole of the material before me, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to give the griever another chance to demonstrate his ability to be a safe and productive employee in control of his drug dependence.”
Hunter Harrison, CP’s chief executive officer, called the arbitrator’s decision “an outrage” that “sets a dangerous precedent” for the safe operation of a railway. “Companies in Canada need the ability to carry out random drug tests, as safety should trump the rights of an individual who makes the dangerous choice to place themselves, their co-workers and the general public at risk.”
I believe that CP had the right idea in challenging the decision. The engineer MUST hold him or herself to the highest standards when working on heavy equipment, especially when this could affect hundreds of others.
We are all adults here and we have to expect that the next guy is playing just as safe as we are. There should be consequences if they do not. A slap on the wrist sends the wrong message.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.