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Construction Trade-Wide Drug Testing Impacted by Insurance Industry

As insurance coverage rates continue to climb the increased use of employee drug testing follows. According to the Nanaimo News Bulletin September 10, 2008 article,("Drug Testing Hits Construction;") "An agreement between B.C.'s unionized construction workers and their employers has created a new industry-wide policy requiring workers who have workplace accidents or near misses to undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing. Workers could also be tested if there is a reasonable suspicion of impairment.The program tests for alcohol and nine other drugs."

The article adds, "Bruce Margetts, president of Nanaimo's Crane Force Ltd., said industry employers have been fighting for a drug testing policy for years. His company has its own drug testing policy. 'Being in the crane business, the liabilities are absolutely staggering,' he said. 'We're 100 per cent behind it and so is the insurance industry. Margetts said there are already many job sites where his workers are required to give a urine sample, while oil and mining operations in Alberta have tested workers for some time. 'Pretty soon you'll see everyone do it-either that or you won't get insurance,' he said. Micheal Vonn, policy director with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said her organization has concerns about the tests. 'It's not clear that the tests effectively determine active impairment,' she said, adding the testing could lead to employers accessing medical information they have no right to access.'The safety justification, in our view, is incredibly problematic when it comes to pre-employment screening," said Vonn.'We would expect that there will be numerous individual challenges. When you have a program of this magnitude, there is the potential that it could bleed into other sectors."

The article notes, "Clyde Scollan, president of the Construction Labour Relations Association, said if a worker tests positive for marijuana, which can remain in the system for weeks after use, a second test is conducted that narrows active impairment down to a matter of hours. He said unionized contractors and the 14 building trades worked on the policy since the last round of bargaining and it applies to everyone on the job site, including managers and administrative staff.Scollan said the agreement only applies to the 350 members in his association. While concerns have been expressed about invasion of worker privacy, Scollan said both parties-the employers and the unions-agreed to the policy."

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