Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission updates its drug and alcohol testing requirements

Feb 23, 2021

According to new regulations outlined by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC), high-security nuclear sites across Canada, including nuclear power plants, used fuel management facilities and Chalk River Laboratories, will need to follow updated drug and alcohol testing requirements.

The new regulatory document, entitled REGDOC-2.2.4, Fitness for Duty, Volume II: Managing Alcohol and Drug Use, Version 3, has been updated “based on years of rigorous research, benchmarking and extensive consultation,” states a news release published by the federal government.

“We are proud to have been the first federal regulator in Canada to require pre-placement and random testing of alcohol and drug use for safety-critical positions,” said Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. “Our staff performed extensive research and worked with international and national experts to assemble the best and most recent scientific advice on which to base our latest requirements.”

Some of the recent updates include revised drug testing thresholds, as well as approved methods for oral fluid testing and point-of-care testing. In addition, these updates complement other existing requirements, such as random and pre-placement testing, to ensure optimal performance and “provide the highest level of safety for all Canadians.”

The new regulations state that depending on the employee’s position and the nature of the job, they can be tested randomly, before getting hired, after an accident has occurred, as well as if their supervisor ‘has cause to believe there is a reason to test’ (also referred to as ‘reasonable suspicion’) and as a follow-up to a confirmation of a substance abuse disorder.

“The CNSC consulted with a variety of organizations, including unions, licensees, as well as individual Canadians. The nuclear industry has signalled its support for the amendments to the regulatory document,” says the news release.

The new CNSC requirements also state that nuclear workers who test positive for drugs or alcohol would be removed from their safety-sensitive duties; they would also be required to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and could only return to safety-sensitive duties if they were determined to be fit-for-duty. Fitness-for-duty refers to workers being ‘physically, physiologically and psychologically capable of competently and safely performing their tasks.’

Canada’s high-security nuclear license holders will be required to create and implement their own testing procedures for drug and alcohol testing within 12 months. Further information on the public consultation and research used to create the regulatory document is available on CNSC’s website.