Work Better Safer 2016
DATAC’s Executive Director, Tim Salter, spoke recently at Wellpoint’s educational conference, Work Better Safer 2016, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Wellpoint conference hosted many esteemed speakers in the industry including Donna Bowyer from the Canadian Mental Health Association who spoke on the important topic of Destigmatizing Mental Health.
Tim Salter first spoke on behalf of Acculab, a subsidiary of Verify Diagnostics founded in 2008, which gave an overview of the drug testing process and provided information about the various standards of drug testing and laboratory processes. Mr. Salter spoke on the standard set by the Department of Transportation and the legal difficulties the DOT presents in Canada. The seminar gave the audience some insight into the problematic nature of drug and alcohol testing in Canada and the difficulties companies face when navigating which testing standards to follow when there are no laws/regulations on testing to guide them.
The Canadian Model
The presentation provided further insight on the applications of Point of Care Testing (POCT) and the convenience of accurate instant results to employers. Information concerning the Canadian model (COAA) was also provided to the attendees of the conference and Mr. Salter spoke on some of the shortfalls of this model. Some issues include the lack of varied industry representation within the drug testing space as well as the limited range of drugs that are currently tested according to the DOT regulations. Drug users are using prescription drugs that are not included in the DOT testing, new drugs such as Oxycodone and Fentanyl have been on the rise amongst users but are not yet added to standard DOT drug panels. Mr. Salter provided clarification concerning marijuana and alcohol detection and spoke on how results can vary according to different test methods, metabolic rates and the many other factors to consider when detection occurs.
The Future of Drug Testing
Tim Salter also spoke on the future of drug testing, offering insights into the shortcomings of drug testing policy in Canada. In Canada DOT standards can present Canadian employers with problems concerning human rights. Mr. Salter clarified that employers can legally perform random drug tests in Canada, but the legality of drug testing can be difficult to navigate as all Canadians are protected by the Human Rights Commission. Mr. Salter noted the benefits of bona-fide occupational requirement which allows employers to test all employees regardless of disabilities when the testing is designed to carry out a legitimate, non- discriminatory purpose like ensuring workplace safety. During the presentation it was explained that all employers have the duty to accommodate employees with disabilities including those who suffer from addiction, but accommodation is not fixed, in fact it varies based upon whether the accommodation would be considered an undue burden on the employer.
The presentation on the Future of Drug Testing also provided insight on some of the possible impacts to workplace drug testing with the upcoming legalization of marijuana, promised to begin in 2017. Mr. Salter suggested this legalization could actually benefit employers in stimulating a conversation that could result in federal and/or provincial laws or guidelines for employers. As marijuana will likely be legalized in the near future employers will have to take action by incorporating both the medical use of marijuana and the legal use of marijuana into their workplace drug and alcohol policy.
Pharmaceuticals in the Workplace
Mr. Salter proposed two solutions for dealing with strong pharmaceutical substances; the first being to simply prohibit the legal and prescribed use of medications that may impair the ability of the employee to perform their job function safely or, alternatively, to allow the use of medications under strict guidelines and policies. As these options could result in backlash for employers, there must exist tolerance in the form of educational programs giving employees the ability to self-regulate medications with mandates that require divulgence of known impairment-causing prescriptions. When medications are disclosed it is up to the employer to decide what actions to take moving forward, those actions can be alternative medication options, short-term leave, or job reassignment. Mr. Salter also recommended educating employees on the impact of using a psychoactive substance while performing a safety-sensitive job function. By creating this dialogue and bringing awareness of safety risks to employees’ attention employers can help foster a more cooperative environment where everyone is working toward the same goal, safety within the workplace.