The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is proposing that random drug and alcohol testing should become mandatory for nuclear facility workers in high-risk positions. The Commission held a public meeting in August to decide whether or not to move forward with the proposed regulations.
In opposition, the Canadian Nuclear Worker’s Council (CNWC) has stated that the policy violates worker privacy and human rights, and according to council executive board chair Bob Walker, requiring workers to provide samples of bodily fluids is “very intrusive.”
Although the USA, the UK, Finland, Sweden, Romania, and Korea all conduct testing for nuclear operators, the CNWC believes Canada is different, and that its nuclear plants are safe enough without testing. David Shier, national director of the CNWC, says Canadian plants already use an “exhaustive screening process” to ensure that all nuclear workers are fit to work safely, and worries that random testing could negatively impact “peer interaction” within the workplace.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has said that drug and alcohol tests are permitted if the workers involved are in safety-sensitive positions and are aware that testing is a condition of their work, and if positive tests result in assisted recovery and support rather than punitive measures by the employer.
The CNSC has listened to union concerns and has significantly reduced the proposed number of nuclear workers subject to random drug and alcohol testing, and states that only about a quarter of the 900 nuclear workers in Canada with a “direct and immediate impact on safety” would be eligible for testing.
But even if the proposed safety regulations are passed at the CNSC’s next meeting in October, the nuclear industry can expect a lengthy wait before it sees mandatory testing in the workplace as implementation plans, timelines, and parameters for pass/fail results are expected to take years to determine.