Please upgrade your browser to ensure an optimum experience
or click on Compatibility View.
The Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario launches its second annual conference on February 15 & 16, 2017 at the Centre for Health and Safety Innovation in Mississauga, Ontario. The agenda addresses the most important issues facing the Canadian trucking industry today, including the new the Mandatory Entry Level Driver Training (MELT) requirement.
On July 1, 2017, the Ministry of Transportation launches the MELT program for those looking to become a Class A driver in Ontario. This is one of the major developments in the trucking industry this year and every company will benefit from learning more about the details and possible impacts. A panel discussion will educate attendees and discuss how this regulation affects the industry going forward.
The panel of experts includes David Goruk (Northbridge Insurance), Mike Millian (the Private Motor Truck Council), Garth Pitzel (Bison Transport), and Rolf VanderZwaag (the Ontario Trucking Association). John G. Smith (Today’s Trucking) will be the moderator.
Day 1’s agenda consists of the TTSAO Carrier Group Meeting, TTSAO Annual General Meeting, and the TTSAO Industry Networking Event.
In addition to the MELT panel, Day 2 events include:
In addition to those esteemed industry participants, the TTSAO Conference welcomes Heidi Francis, the Assistant Deputy Minister for Road User Safety Division, Ministry of Transportation Ontario, Ms. Francis is representing the provincial government and speaking to attendees on Day 2.
Image: vitpho / 123RF Stock PhotoFebruary 15th, 2017 | administrator
It’s a popular and more potent substitute for the now defunct OxyContin. Yet only in rare or special circumstances are workplaces testing for Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid readily available through legitimate and false prescriptions, as well as on the street. The drug has made headlines across North America in recent months with overdose deaths on the rise. Authorities in Alberta say Fentanyl caused or contributed to 120 deaths in Alberta and a quarter of all overdose deaths in BC in 2014. That’s a more than five-fold increase in both provinces since 2012. A report published in the latest B.C. Medical Journal examines the rapid rise of the powerful drug in communities throughout North America.
From a workplace perspective, it can be tough to assess just how prevalent the use, misuse or abuse of Fentanyl is among workers in safety sensitive positions. Although OxyContin had been the driving trend for illicit drug users in recent years before it was removed from the Canadian pharmaceutical market, experts say Fentanyl became the preferred high in 2012 when governments forced the manufacturer of OxyContin to introduce a replacement preparation called OxyNeo, a medication that is formulated in a way that makes it much more difficult to abuse.
It’s not just the illicit form of the drug that could be a concern for employers. As an analgesic, Fentanyl is a commonly prescribed medication used to manage moderate to severe pain, usually in people with chronic pain. It is often used when other pain medicines no longer work. The drug is said to be 20 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Prescriptions for high potency painkillers like Fentanyl have skyrocketed over the past 15 years, and Canadians are now the world’s biggest per capita consumers of legal opioids.
Despite growing concerns about the use of this drug, testing for Fentanyl in the workplace is typically only requested in exceptional or special circumstances and is not a drug currently tested for under standard workplace drug testing panels. To test for it, employers would need to include Fentanyl as a special add-on at an extra cost. Until standalone testing is available, Fentanyl would currently be tested for using a total pharmacological toxicology screen to provide an initial result, but although such initial immunoassay screen testing is available, no laboratories in Canada offer mass spectrometry confirmation testing nor provide its precise quantitative levels. As such, non-negative initial screening test samples would have to be sent to the United States for the confirmation test until such time confirmation testing becomes available in Canada.
Some policy experts in Canada suggest consideration should be given to expanding standard workplace panels to mandatorily include special drugs of concern as was suggested several years ago with oxycodone (the generic active opioid ingredient found in certain medications such as OxyNeo, Percodan, Percocet, and the now no longer available OxyContin). Although the synthetic opioids oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone are very close to being added to standard testing panels, Fentanyl is not. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (the branch of government that establishes the scientific and technical guidelines for federal workplace drug testing in the U.S., including the Department of Transportation) did make mention of Fentanyl in its proposed oral fluid lab-based drug testing guidelines recently released for public comment. This document noted that emergency department visits involving opiates/opioids increased by 183 percent between 2004 and 2011, with increases of over 100 percent for Fentanyl as well as morphine.
Despite this mention, Fentanyl does not appear to be on the DHHS radar for standard workplace testing programs. Nevertheless, policy experts recommend building into a company policy that additional drugs may be added on the advice of a Substance Abuse Professional in a post-treatment situation.
Employers may also want to consider testing for Fentanyl in situations where valid concerns that Fentanyl use, misuse, or abuse may exist having impact on safety sensitive work, or where it may have contributed to a workplace accident or incident.
Was this post helpful? Is Fentanyl a concern in your workplace or community? Post your comments here or reach out to us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.July 9th, 2015 | administrator
With medical marijuana use making its way to the top of the agenda at many workplace health and safety meetings, employers are looking for guidance. Common questions include, should its use be treated as a regular prescription medication? How should results be reported?
Though there is no specific guidance for employers in Canada, The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) recently released Marijuana in the Workplace: Guidance for Occupational Health Professionals and Employers. Though helpful, Canadian employers should keep in mind that this document is geared towards U.S. employers. One of the major focuses of the guideline relates to U.S. law; the U.S. federal government is against medical marijuana, while several state governments have endorsed its use.
One of the key issues in the U.S. relates to disabled worker civil rights protections. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects Americans from discrimination due to disability in similar fashion to Canada’s federal and provincial Human Rights Acts. ADA, however, is a federal U.S. law, and, as such, does not offer protection of any kind to medical marijuana users because of the federal government’s anti-medical marijuana stance. This forced some states to introduce their own job protection legislation banning automatic termination of workers who use medical marijuana (employers will have to accommodate workers wherever possible).
A number of judicial case decisions in the U.S. also demonstrate ambivalence in that some decisions have sided on employers’ right to automatically terminate based upon federal law, while other decisions adopted state law in their rulings thereby supporting workers’ rights.
Unlike the U.S., the provincial and federal governments in Canada appear to be aligned in the treatment of these cases. Health Canada permits the drug’s possession and use where it is authorized by a doctor or nurse practitioner (under the new “Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations” that took effect in April of 2014) and there has been no opposition from the provinces to date. As such, there are now recognized legitimate medical reasons in Canada where the use of medical marijuana can be authorized, but indeed such use has the potential to impact safety in the workplace. In addition to this, however, human rights legislation in Canada dictates that employers cannot discriminate based on a disability, such discrimination being either real or perceived.
ACOEM’s guidance notes that a positive test for marijuana in a registered medical marijuana patient would be reported by the MRO as a “Positive” test to the employer, with an explanation of the drug’s use provided to the employer for the employer’s consideration. As such, it appears ACOEM is leaving it solely up to the employer to decide the fate of the worker (in non-federally regulated workplaces).
However, it is our opinion that ACOEM’s suggestion that MROs automatically determine an authorized medical marijuana user’s test as positive for THC is fraught with potential legal challenge complications. Some employers’ drug testing policies require automatic termination of workers for having MRO-determined positive drug tests regardless of explanation, so if the MRO reports a result as positive, he/she may knowingly be participating in a wrongful termination process under state law. Granted, employers can change their policies to integrate medical marijuana considerations, but even that can be met with challenge in complex collective bargaining situations.
DriverCheck’s default position in Canada is to treat medical marijuana in the same manner as though it is a medication, and, as such, for the MRO to determine the test as “Negative” where proof of legitimate medical authorization and valid possession has been made (with comments to the employer specifically stating that the donor is a medical marijuana user and a fitness for safety sensitive duty medical assessment should be done) in our non-DOT workplace testing programs. That said, such employers can still be offered the opportunity to request that the MRO determine such tests to be “Positive” if their policy so dictates, but such employers should be reminded of their obligations to comply with the accommodation requirements relating to Canadian federal and provincial human rights legislation, and may be required to sign a waiver accordingly.
Finally, it is very important to note that all U.S. DOT covered employers and workers must comply with all applicable DOT testing policies and procedures. Currently, DOT (a division of the U.S. federal government) will not accept medical marijuana as a valid medical explanation for a positive DOT-required drug test. As such, it requires that MROs determine all such tests to be “Positive,” and that all DOT-covered workers who test positive must be removed from DOT-covered safety sensitive duties until full compliance with DOT’s return to duty requirements are met (which would obviously require the worker to discontinue using medical marijuana).
ACOEM’s guidance recommends as best practice that an employee suspected of clinical impairment undergo an occupational medicine assessment that includes a physical examination.
At DriverCheck, once it is determined that an employee is using medical marijuana (with valid authorization) for medicinal reasons, our Medical Marijuana @ Work program provides you with an employee evaluation that is independent, objective, and based on medical evidence. Our assessments are provided by medical cannabinoid experts and take into account the employee’s occupational history, safety considerations, medical history (with focus on the medical condition being treated and its impact on safety, too), and the appropriateness and effectiveness of their current dose and usage in order to provide you with defensible and concrete recommendations on how to proceed in each case. Our in-depth report will determine whether the worker is fit for safety sensitive duties, whether there are options for alternative treatment given the employee’s medical condition, and a safe return to work process for the worker, including any necessary follow up testing. For example, drug testing may offer some assistance in determining treatment and dose compliance over time, and may also be of some assistance in identifying divergence.
The other issue ACOEM raised relates to demonstrating impairment caused by medical marijuana, including the need for blood (plasma) tests (THC and THC-OH) to be used as an impairment confirmation tool. To date, such testing has never been a regular part of workplace surveillance programs. Blood procurement is looked upon as a physically invasive procedure, with some risk attached (bruising, swelling, phlebitis, nerve and muscle damage, infection, etc.). That said, there are many occupational health programs that require periodic and emergency blood tests be done, so in the absence of any other tools, blood tests may indeed become adopted in some workplace settings until credible and accurate non-invasive tools find their way to market (oral fluid testing, for example, currently offers identification of “likely” impairment, and could evolve into a more precise tool in the future). However, laboratories in Canada that are accredited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services do not currently include protocols and procedures for THC blood testing in federally regulated drug testing programs.
Again, we do recommend all employers seek medical, legal, and policy expert advice prior to making decisions around how you address the complexities of an evolving medical marijuana treatment world. DriverCheck can assist in this process, and we encourage you to reach out to us with any questions you have around medical marijuana use in your workplace.
July 2nd, 2015 | administrator
More and more, clients for whom we perform drug and alcohol testing services are requesting additional information on their workers who undergo this testing as part of a fitness for duty assessment. While we continually strive to provide employers with the information the employer needs to determine fitness for safety sensitive duty, there are limitations to the amount of information we can and should release. This post will provide you with some insight into the privacy legislation that applies to the reporting of alcohol and drug test results in Canada.
Firstly though, we strongly recommend that as an employer, you think carefully before asking your drug and alcohol testing provider for additional medical information.
Consider these questions:
You may want to seek legal advice on this matter before requesting additional medical information from your service provider. We also encourage all requests for additional information to come from a health care professional at your company who is responsible for determining fitness for duty.
As a service provider, our MROs have legal and professional obligations to maintain patient confidentiality in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and other federal and provincial legislation.
Our MROs treat alcohol and drug test results as medical files and therefore are in compliance with all applicable regulations around the release of medical information, including those implemented by their governing authority (i.e. College of Physicians and Surgeons).
This means that medical and personal information privacy law take priority over other non-regulated guidelines (i.e. Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace). For example, although Appendix A.I, Section II: Subsection 27 and Section III: Subsection 21 of the latest version of the Canadian Model suggest that a safety advisory notification can accompany a negative lab-based urine or oral fluid drug test result, the MRO may be in a position to identify and report that an imminent safety sensitive risk exists but it does not mean the MRO is obligated to disclose the name of the medication nor the diagnosis to the employer.
DriverCheck typically reports the following in relation to a lab-based positive drug test:
Unless prohibited by specific law, the custodian of medical and personal information (i.e. MRO) is obliged to release such information to the donor/patient or to another party if so directed and authorized to do so by the donor/patient, unless the release of such information poses imminent serious risk to the donor/patient or to another party. Said another way, without the donor’s/patient’s consent, such information cannot be released. At DriverCheck, written consent from the donor/patient is required.
Where a significant health and safety risk occurs for a donor/patient, co-workers, and/or the general public, the custodian may be protected under various laws in various jurisdictions for releasing such information even without the donor’s/patient’s consent, and in some cases, may even be required by law to release such information (such as provisions under certain provincial Highway Traffic Acts requiring a physician to release such information to the motor vehicle licensing body).
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know by emailing us, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn! If you have any questions about the release of medical information to employers, we encourage you to reach out to us!June 22nd, 2015 | administrator
DriverCheck’s Medical Director and Chief Medical Review Officer Dr. Barry Kurtzer was recently featured in a Canadian HR Reporter story on medical marijuana in the workplace. With medical marijuana use expected to increase substantially over the next decade, this story examines the new federal regulations around medical marijuana and outlines best practices for employers dealing with employees in safety sensitive positions who have authorization to use marijuana for medical purposes.
During the interview, Dr. Kurtzer makes the following recommendations for employers:
See the full story below.
Dr. Kurtzer was interviewed by Canadian HR Reporter during the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services Partners in Prevention Conference in Mississauga back in April. He was a guest speaker at the conference, offering guidance to employers on the issues surrounding medical marijuana use in the workplace.
For more information on how to address medical marijuana in your workplace, or to book Dr. Kurtzer as a guest speaker on this topic, please contact:
Sherry Morley, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, 1-800-463-4310 x. 459
June 11, 2015 – Canada’s highest court has ruled that medical marijuana patients can now consume marijuana in edible form as well as use other extracts and derivatives.
The Supreme Court of Canada found the current restriction to smoking marijuana in its “dried” form violates a person’s right to liberty and security. Current federal health regulations state that any other form can lead to drug possession charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The impacts of this ruling on safety sensitive workplaces will depend on what each employer’s alcohol and drug policy states about the use of medical marijuana. We foresee two potential issues:
It is important to remember that the standards and recommendations on what constitutes impairment by marijuana are evolving as would be expected in any arena where pioneering is occurring. In light of this fact, employers may need to arrange (for legal purposes) independent medical evaluations of workers to determine if they are fit and safe to perform essential safety sensitive duties. Recognizing this need, DriverCheck has developed a Medicinal Marijuana@Work program for employers who want to take that additional step to ensure health and safety and minimize legal risk.June 11th, 2015 | administrator
Oral fluid tests, hair tests, and additional opiate prescription medication tests could be part of DOT-regulated drug testing programs in the not too distant future. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is moving forward with proposed changes that could impact DOT regulated companies and even non-DOT workplaces in Canada and the U.S. SAMHSA is the branch of U.S. government that establishes the scientific and technical guidelines for workplace drug testing and the standards for certification of workplace drug testing laboratories. In this post, we take a look at SAMHSA’s proposed changes in brief.
DOT-regulated employers should remember that right now these are proposed regulations, not the rule. However, because the DOT must follow the scientific guidelines of SAMHSA for DOT-regulated drug testing, DOT regulated employers in Canada and the U.S. should be aware of the important issues SAMHSA is considering. If the proposed regulations are approved, DOT regulated employers and drug testing service providers will have to comply with all provisions. The new guidelines around urine and oral fluid drug testing could very likely serve as a standard for general workplace (non-DOT regulated) programs in Canada too and it is likely these changes would be reflected in the Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace.
SAMHSA’s proposed revisions to urine drug testing standards include changing the initial and confirmatory drug test analytes and methods, revising the cutoff for reporting a specimen as adulterated based on low pH, and revising the requalification requirements for individuals serving as MROs. There are many complex issues being reviewed, and in order to avoid confusion over the details, it will be best to wait for the final rulemaking before describing any new requirements.
In addition, SAMHSA is also considering expanding the drugs that must be tested for through urine to include additional opiate prescription medications (i.e. hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone), and has developed proposed guidelines for these drugs. Currently, 5-panel lab-based urine drug testing is the only type of drug testing for which SAMHSA has established scientific and technical guidelines, including recommended cutoff levels. Under SAMHSA’s proposed guidelines, these additional prescription medications could also be tested for through oral fluid.
SAMHSA has issued proposed standards and technical requirements for oral fluid collection devices, initial oral fluid drug test analytes and methods, confirmatory oral fluid drug test analytes and methods, and processes for review by a Medical Review Officer (MRO).
It is important for non-DOT regulated employers to note that SAMHSA’s proposed oral fluid confirmation test cutoff level for THC is lower than for those workplace programs that try to identify likely impairment within 4 hours prior to the test. The lower SAMHSA cutoff level translates into a longer time window of detection, meaning, in turn, that the test cannot be used to verify impairment in immediate proximity to the test. As with urine testing, the primary intent is to identify risk-taking behaviour, not impairment. However, that being said, we won’t know the exact cutoff that will be used until it is officially published in the final rulemaking.
SAMHSA recently indicated it intends to review and develop standards for hair testing. If SAMHSA approves hair testing as a viable method for drug testing, it would likely become an acceptable method of drug testing for DOT regulated employers. As with oral fluid testing, DOT would still need to officially approve its acceptability for its testing program when the time comes through its own rulemaking or applicable statement. There is already a bill on the table in the U.S. Senate that if passed would allow DOT-regulated employers to use hair testing as an alternative to urine drug testing; however, acceptable scientific testing standards for such testing would still have to be created and introduced.
To help evaluate the credibility, applicability, and viability of these changes, SAMHSA is requesting information from industry stakeholders and the general public regarding its proposed oral fluid testing and enhanced urine testing rules, and has also requested comments on the potential use of hair samples for drug testing (SAMHSA is inviting comment on hair sample collection, specimen preparation, analytes, cutoffs, specimen validity, and initial and confirmatory testing). The process for all these testing methods and enhanced testing panels involves evaluating the scientific supportability by studying their scientific methodology and forensic defensibility.
At this time, no official DOT “need to comply by” or “approved to use” dates have been released for the proposed inclusion of oral fluid testing or the enhanced opiate testing panel. Hair testing is currently under its initial consideration review, and it will likely take some time for it to reach the current near final approval position of oral fluid testing.
The DriverCheck team is currently reviewing all proposed regulations and is preparing to issue comments where appropriate. Our comments, if made, will be posted in the News section of our website next month. If you would like to issue your own comment, you can do so here.June 10th, 2015 | administrator
KITCHENER, ON – It took 35 years, but Lucian Stoica’s dream of owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle has come true with the dragster appearing in his driveway earlier this month.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Stoica said in disbelief when he walked outside his house and saw the 2015 Harley Davidson Softail Breakout.
Stoica, a local truck driver and owner operator, was overwhelmed with emotion as DriverCheck’s National Sales Manager Kris Phippen announced he was the winner of the company’s Harley Giveaway Contest.
Phippen shook Stoica’s hand as Stoica shook his head and sat down to get his bearings.
“I need to take 15 minutes,” said Stoica. “It’s a huge surprise. I don’t know what to say, I’m still shaking.”
Stoica thought he was just getting a gift basket when the DriverCheck team arrived at his door.
His name was entered into the draw for the motorcycle when he visited DriverCheck’s newly renovated Kitchener clinic on McBrine Drive back in February. To renew his class of license, Stoica is required by law to pass a medical exam every 5 years. In May, his name was randomly drawn from a pool of 1,500 entries.
“It’s a token of our appreciation,” said Phippen. “It is truck drivers like yourself that truly make such a significant contribution to our economy.”
Stoica had loaded up his truck and was ready to leave for Windsor when the DriverCheck team showed up at his house. Not even his wife believed it when DriverCheck called her a few days earlier to arrange the surprise visit.
“Is this for real?” she asked Phippen.
Stoica doesn’t have his motorcycle license yet, but now he does have the incentive to get it.
“Skiing and gardening were my hobbies (before this),” he said, as he gripped the handles on his new dragster. “But probably I need to add another one.”
DriverCheck Inc. is a physician owned and operated national provider of workplace medical testing and assessments. We currently serve over 6,000 employers, with a nationwide network of more than 700 clinics, including a newly renovated DriverCheck-owned transportation clinic at 31 McBrine Drive in Kitchener.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Phone: 1-800-463-4310 x. 459
Today is the National Day of Mourning and across Canada communities are recognizing those who were hurt, fell ill or lost their lives due to work-related incidents or disease. Here are the facts from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS):
Every day but in particular on this day, the CCOHS reminds employers to strive to prevent workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries by establishing safe conditions in the workplace.
That is our mission here at DriverCheck. Physician owned and operated, our priority is prevention and we do our best to assist employers in making their workplaces healthy and safe.
Have you asked yourself, how safe is my business? Are my workers properly protected? When you hire an employee, do you ensure they are physically fit to perform their work without jeopardizing their health and safety and the safety of others?
Unfortunately, many employers tend to exercise complacency when it comes to health and safety risks, assuming that if it isn’t regulated, it isn’t worth addressing. This is one of three dangerous attitudes that can lead to workplace injuries:
The so-called ‘common sense’ approach to safety sensitive work, which overlooks the need for formal health and safety training or medical testing to mitigate health and safety hazards, is risky. For example, sleep apnea testing isn’t regulated in the U.S. or in Canada, but that doesn’t mean a sleep apnea problem doesn’t exist. In fact, a 2009 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that over one in four Canadian adults (26%) are at a high risk of having sleep apnea. If any of these respondents are in safety sensitive positions, they could be putting themselves, their co-workers, and the public in danger. Sleep apnea testing can ensure these individuals are identified, treated and safely returned to work.
The belief that if you don’t look for any health and safety regulations that affect your industry or your workplace, you don’t have to comply with those rules, is a dangerous attitude that could lead to unnecessary injuries and illnesses and unnecessary costs and fines for your company. Occupational health and safety regulations (and any other safety-related regulations) are established to protect workers and their employers, as well as the public and the environment. Anyone and any business has an obligation to seek out applicable legislation that impacts the workplace at all levels – federal, provincial, and municipal – and compliance will improve worker health and safety, productivity, and your corporate image.
The benefits of investing in health and safety are well established. An article published in Canadian Occupational Health and Safety just this week highlighted a Nova Scotia-based company that saw lost-time injury claims cut by 50 percent after putting a bigger focus on safety. Not making the investment could open your company up to preventable workplace incidents, injuries and illnesses, and increased workers’ compensation costs.
If you have any questions about how to improve health and safety in the workplace and what medical testing and/or assessments may be required or recommended for your safety sensitive work environment, feel free to get in touch! You can reach out to us here or on Twitter @DriverCheckCA.
(Statistics from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website)April 28th, 2015 | administrator