Starting in the first quarter of 2019, workers and contractors of Suncor Energy will be subject to random alcohol and drug tests. Suncor Energy, a Canadian integrated energy company based in Calgary, Alberta, specializes in the production of oil and natural gas in Western Canada, and operates multiple refineries across the country. The jobs subject to random drug tests will include but are not limited to mine jobs, jobs which involve handling heavy equipment, as well as various trades and office jobs.
“Suncor is pleased to be moving forward with what we believe will positively affect safety at our worksites in the region… We are committed to ensuring a workplace where everyone is fit for duty, so we can all make it home safely,” said Bruno Francoeur, Suncor’s regional operations executive in his recent internal email to Suncor employees, an excerpt from which has been published by CBC News.
Notably, the union Unifor Local 707A has been involved in long-term a court battle with Suncor since 2012 over the issue of implementing random drug tests in the workplace. However, Unifor has recently taken the decision to discontinue its legal action with Suncor, which was predicted to continue for years to come. By dropping the issue, Unifor Local 707A union has agreed to the implementation of random drug tests in order to test Suncor employees for alcohol and cannabis use.
Due to the union quitting the legal battle, random tests at Suncor will begin early in 2019. In his interview with CBC News, Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the national president of Unifor, stated: “We believe this is the right move for our members and the community up there… It’s well-documented that there’s some issues when it comes to substance abuse in the region, and given those circumstances and what’s going on in the region, we felt this was the best move going forward.”
The administration of cannabis tests in the workplace is subject to recent concerns over increasing numbers of failed tests due to false positive results. The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC, can remain in the bloodstream for weeks. Due to the lack of tests which enable the determination of the exact time frame of cannabis consumption, it is nearly impossible to determine whether an employee consumed cannabis at work (immediately prior to starting a shift), or during after-hours, including the weekend.
Suncor justifies the implementation of random cannabis and alcohol testing by citing safety concerns. According to Suncor, despite a comprehensive safety program, the incidence of accidents involving drugs and alcohol has not decreased, and in some cases, resulted in fatalities at its worksites. Moreover, the nature of testing method to be implemented is not new, and has been previously used in pre-employment and post-incident testing. In addition, the company has revealed it has full confidence in the accuracy of the tests to be implemented, which is to be conducted by third-party experts.