Random drug and alcohol testing misses the root problem with substance abuse, and will fail to produce safer workplaces, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says today. The AFL is responding to government suggestions that they will be forging ahead on random drug and alcohol testing.
"The drive toward more random testing is the result of impaired thinking," says AFL Acting President Kerry Barrett. "It is a knee-jerk reaction. It is not based in science or in any understanding of the issue."
A comprehensive study conducted by AADAC and recently released shows that drug and alcohol impairment is not a growing problem, and is restricted to very few workers in a handful of specific industries. It finds that only 5.6% of workers use alcohol during or in the hours before work on a regular basis, and only 1.7% use illicit drugs at or before work. And that the rate of drug and alcohol is linked to only a couple of industries, including construction and telecommunications.
The AADAC study decides against random testing. "AADAC does not recommend employee alcohol and drug testing except in cases where alcohol or other drug use constitutes a genuine risk to the workplace operations or public safety" says a Summary of the report.
"The issue is not whether a person uses alcohol or drugs on the weekend in their home - that is none of the employer's business. The question we need to stay focused on is how impairment affects the safety of workers. And random testing will not fix that problem" says Barrett.
"Randomly testing all workers to catch the very few with a substance use problem is like using amputation to deal with a hangnail. We need more finessed solutions that tackle the root problem" suggests Barrett.
She also reminds the government that random testing has been found to contravene Human Rights legislation. "Any attempt to legislate random testing will likely be struck down by the courts."
Barrett suggests Employee Assistance Programs, rehabilitation and counseling and attention to the warning signs that accompany substance abuse are better methods for reducing impairment in the workplace. "Solutions that get to the reasons why people abuse drugs and alcohol will be far more effective at fixing this safety problem."
"Employers are demanding more testing because it is a quick solution that lets them off the hook. We need solutions that make workplaces safer, and not just let employers feel like tough guys."
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For further information, contact:
Kerry Barrett, President at 780-483-3021 (wk) 780-720-8945 (cell)
Jason Foster, Director at 780-483-3021 (wk) 780-910-1137 (cell)