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Manley McLachlan: British Columbia’s new drug testing policy emphasizes health and safety

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by Provincial Perspective

The recent announcement by the Construction Labour Relations Association of B.C. (CLRABC) and the Bargaining Council of British Columbia Building Trades Unions (BCBCBTU) on the ground breaking policy for workplace drug testing in construction is noteworthy, writes Manley McLachlan, president of the British Columbia Construction Association.
Manley McLachlan: British Columbia’s new drug testing policy emphasizes health and safety

Manley McLachlan

The recent announcement by the Construction Labour Relations Association of B.C. (CLRABC) and the Bargaining Council of British Columbia Building Trades Unions (BCBCBTU) on the groundbreaking policy for workplace drug testing in construction is note worthy.

Those who have been around the industry for a while will be aware that this matter has been one of considerable controversy for many years.

The fact that the two parties were able to arrive at a negotiated position is substantial and speaks to the commitment of both parties to workplace safety, as well as to the process that was employed to arrive at a mutually agreed upon position.

The new policy, which applies to union workers, provides a balance between workers’ rights and the need to provide safe work sites in this high risk industry of construction.

It is designed to address the real issues of drug and alcohol abuse.

The new policy treats each test on a case by case basis.

The tests are for impairment and cover alcohol and nine common drugs including cocaine, marijuana and methadone.

The policy is designed to help the person that tests positive and provide treatment for those that require it.

CLRABC and the building trades have run a rehabilitation program for construction workers since 1981 with demonstrated success.

The program is paid for by contributions defined within the collective agreements at a rate of two cents per hour per worker.

The new drug testing policy is there to help workers overcome their addictions or prevent those addictions from forming.

The tests are triggered in a number of ways, such as the results of an accident or near miss investigation.

Testing is conducted only when there is reasonable suspicion of impairment on the job-site.

All test results must be reviewed and verified by a medical verification officer.

The person tested is then consulted on possible reasons for a positive result.

This new policy for construction workers incorporates a consultation process, used to determine if the positive result can be explained by something other than abuse.

It treats all users the same, whether they are addicts or recreational users, they get the same considerations and opportunity for the appropriate options to address the issues that led to the work related problem.

The approach taken by those who developed the drug policy is based on their interest in providing a substance abuse policy that primarily tests for impairment.

If the person is found impaired, they are removed from the work environment and provided with options based on their needs. The parties are committed to the need to provide safe work sites for all workers, including those that may have substance abuse issues to deal with.

The emphasis has been put on health and safety in a very real way.

Health and safety are no longer a euphemism in regards to drug testing.

The opportunity for recovery, and consideration for the families involved, demonstrates a huge commitment to workers.

All initial testing is done at the employer’s expense.

This new policy treats workers like real people with real problems, while providing the opportunity for recovery.

This testing is only for union workers, but it stands to be a solid template to expand testing to all workers.

The old platitude that a company’s greatest assets are their employees is often not recognized in policy.

Both the Construction Labour Relations Association of B.C. and the Bargaining Council of British Columbia Building Trades Unions should be commended for their work in creating a policy that recognizes the value of workers by putting the workers first in the pursuit of workplace safety.

Manley McLachlan is the president of the British Columbia Construction Association and a member of the Journal of Commerce editorial advisory board.

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