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Changes to the Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace

The Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace, a ‘best practice’ alcohol and drug policy for the construction industry, has been revised by the Construction Owners Association of Alberta with the goal of “improving clarity, consistency and readability.” Prior to issuing the latest version, DriverCheck was given the opportunity to provide feedback. Version 5 was released October 8th and in this post we offer our perspective on some of the key changes.

The Canadian Model: History and Applicability

The first version of the policy was developed in 1999 under the direction of the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) by a group of key stakeholders in the industry. The purpose was to ensure a safe workplace for all workers by reducing the risks associated with the use of alcohol and drugs, as well as provide a consistent and standardized approach to testing across the industry. The Canadian Model largely mirrors the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) alcohol and drug testing regulations – however, there are some notable differences.

It is also important to remember that although the Canadian Model provides employers with guidance on how to structure and carry out their workplace alcohol and testing programs, it is not the law. This means employers are not mandated by law to follow this model.

Supervisor Training

The revised version of the Canadian Model now specifically recommends supervisors complete awareness training in accordance with the minimum criteria set by the United States Department of Transportation.  Here, for example, is an excerpt from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) testing rule 49 CFR Part 382 (FMCSA one of the DOT’s agencies):

382.603   Training for supervisors.

Each employer shall ensure that all persons designated to supervise drivers receive at least 60 minutes of training on alcohol misuse and receive at least an additional 60 minutes of training on controlled substances use. The training will be used by the supervisors to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists to require a driver to undergo testing under §382.307. The training shall include the physical, behavioural, speech, and performance indicators of probable alcohol misuse and use of controlled substances.

Recognizing that there are variances from site to site for employers not regulated by the DOT, DriverCheck can customize its in-person and online supervisor training programs to reflect company-specific requirements (i.e. if the minimum criteria for triggering an alcohol and drug test differs from the DOT).

Urine Point of Care/Collection Testing

The COAA is now including Instant or Point of Care/Collection as an acceptable method of assessing safety risks in the construction industry in some circumstances.

The COAA recently revised its alcohol and drug testing guidelines (Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace) to include POCTs as an option for assessing whether the employee can return to work while awaiting the result of a lab-based test in post-incident and reasonable cause scenarios (i.e. “Express to Lab” testing). DriverCheck provides clients with POCT devices that are approved by Health Canada, as recommended in the revised version.

Collections Under Direct Observation

For urine drug testing, the Canadian Model now specifies that during the collection process, if the temperature of the specimen is out of acceptable range or there is evidence it has been tampered with, the donor must provide another specimen under direct observation “in accordance” with DOT regulations.

The use of “in accordance” in this section insinuates that every employer must follow the DOT regulations in this section. This is not the case for non-DOT regulated employers. Although direct observation is mandatory for companies regulated by the DOT where defined, DriverCheck recommends employers seriously consider Canadian Human Rights requirements and privacy laws when determining whether or not to implement direct observation in their non-DOT company policy.  We suggest that all employers discuss the direct observation provision with their legal counsel in order to determine if it should be included in their testing policy and program.

Medical Review Officer Qualifications

The Canadian Model now specifically requires that MROs be certified with the American Association of Medical Review Officers (AAMRO) or Medical Review Officer Certification Council (MROCC). All of DriverCheck’s in-house and external MROs, including our Chief MRO, are certified by these governing bodies.

Safety Advisories

The Canadian Model has been revised to now recommend a practice that is standard protocol for DriverCheck – recommending that an MRO have the ability to issue a safety advisory to the employer for a negative drug test result when appropriate and applicable.

Being well trained on how important safety risks are, DriverCheck provides direction to clients in these circumstances, such as for the use of a prescription or authorized medical marijuana in non-DOT settings. Even though the drug test result may be reported as MRO negative where a valid prescription and authority exists, safety sensitive issues are raised and discussed with the Designated Employer Representative/Program Administrator. Our MROs always use such sound health and safety judgment when reviewing special cases.

If you would like to know more about these or other changes to the Canadian Model, please get in touch with us, your account manager, or your sales consultant and we would be pleased to provide you with additional information.