Random employee drug and alcohol testing proven effective in Canada

FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTA, June 27, 2012 – Research shows Alberta oil companies are on the right track with a new pilot project that requires employees be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol.

Recently, three Alberta-based oil companies announced they would be adopting the practice on a trial basis, and while union representatives claim it’s ineffective, the trucking industry has actually found the opposite to be true. Random testing is a proven way to deter substance misuse and abuse in the workplace.

Statistics compiled by DriverCheck Inc., the largest provider of random testing services in Canada, show that over a period of 14 years and more than 237,000 tests, the program has helped reduce positive rates among drivers in the trucking industry by 80 percent.

Between 1996 (when random testing became mandatory for drivers travelling to the U.S.) and 2010, the positive rate fell from nearly 2.5 percent to less than 0.5 percent. In the oil sands, many companies who conduct pre-employment testing see rates that are much higher than this, up to 15 percent in some workplaces. This suggests there is even more opportunity in the oil sands for a significant reduction in positive rates.

“These statistics demonstrate the importance, value, and benefits of introducing pro-active, professionally designed and managed occupational health and safety programs into the workplace,” says Dr. Barry Kurtzer, Medical Director at DriverCheck and a leading certified workplace drug testing program Medical Review Officer in Canada.

In addition, concerns that drug testing does not necessarily test for impairment fail to take into account the value of being pro-active.

“Waiting to take action until someone demonstrates blatant visible evidence of being impaired by drug and/or alcohol use on the job is likely attached to a much higher level of safety risk when compared to programs that promote early detection, intervention, and structured return to duty processes,” says Dr. Kurtzer.

He also says that in some cases, depending on the cut-off levels used, evolving testing methods such as lab-based oral fluid drug testing (as opposed to industry standard urine drug testing) may be able to demonstrate the likelihood of drug use and, therefore, the likelihood of impairment within certain time windows.

In addition, research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2009 shows that mandatory alcohol testing programs have been associated with a 23% reduced risk of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes by motor carrier drivers. This indicates that testing programs may have contributed to a significant reduction in alcohol as a contributing factor in deadly motor carrier crashes. In a few years, Dr. Kurtzer says it is possible random testing could have a similar impact on the number of injuries in the oil sands.

“Random testing offers the opportunity to identify potential problems early on, and to take appropriate action before it’s too late… before a catastrophe occurs.”

About DriverCheck Inc.

DriverCheck Inc. is a physician owned and operated third party administrator and the largest provider of random drug and alcohol testing services in Canada. The company has 50,000 employees in its random pool and has been providing workplace medical testing and assessments to companies since 1996. DriverCheck currently serves over 6,000 employers, with a nationwide network of more than 700 clinics and collection sites.