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TTC considering random employee drug and alcohol testing

Posted on October 20, 2011

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is reviewing a staff report to amend its existing fitness for duty policy to include random alcohol and drug testing. The report can be found here.

While there have been public incidents recently that are cause for significant concern, in September 2008 the TTC approved a staff recommendation to implement a fitness for duty policy to reduce the risk of employees being impaired while at work. The agency, however, did not approve the staff recommendation to include random alcohol and drug testing. TTC staff indicated they would revisit the policy at a later date and ask the agency to reconsider this tool to further ensure the safety of its employees and the public.

Currently, the TTC’s fitness for duty policy, which was fully implemented in October 2010, allows for alcohol and drug testing of those in safety-sensitive positions, specified management positions and designated executive positions, under the following circumstances:

•    pre-employment/certification

•    reasonable cause

•    post-incident

•    post-violation

•    post-treatment

The addition of random testing supports the TTC’s need for a comprehensive and effective fitness for duty policy, but also acts as a necessary deterrent for those who choose to risk their own safety, as well as the safety of others, according to the agency.

Random alcohol and drug testing involves a breathalyzer test for alcohol and an oral fluid test for drugs, as is the case for post-incident and reasonable cause testing. Random alcohol and drug testing is only used to detect impairment at the time of the test; it does not indicate if an individual is a recreational drug user, for example. Furthermore, test results for drugs only indicates a pass-fail based on the established threshold — the laboratory does not provide the TTC with the levels of a substance detected, if any.

In the U.S., random alcohol and drug testing in the transportation sector is the law. Every public transit agency must have random testing in its workplace. In Canada, for example, both Greyhound and Coach Canada bus operators are subject to random alcohol and drug testing. Windsor, Ontario is the only Canadian public transit operator with random testing in place, and only for those employees who operate routes that cross into the U.S.

According to the Federal Transit Administration’s latest statistical report, between 1995 and 2008, positive random alcohol tests declined from .25 percent to .15 percent. Similarly, positive random drug tests declined from 1.76 percent to .82 percent.

The TTC offers an employee-family assistance program for anyone who requires professional help with their alcohol or drug use. Employees are encouraged to get the help they need for their own health, as well for the well-being of those around them. A violation of the fitness for duty policy, aside from the significant safety risk such a violation poses, can result in termination of employment.

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