Energy industry moves on drug, alcohol testing

A group of energy companies and other organizations active in the oilsands are banding together to develop and implement comprehensive workplace alcohol and drug programs — including random testing.

A group of energy companies and other organizations active in the oilsands are banding together to develop and implement comprehensive workplace alcohol and drug programs — including random testing.

Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Total E&P Canada are among the nine participants in the Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Pilot Project (DARRPP). The others are Building and Construction Trades Canada, the Christian Labour Association of Canada, Construction Labour Relations — Alberta, the Construction Owners Association of Alberta, the Oil Sands Safety Association and the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada.

The objective of DARRPP is to establish best practices for random workplace alcohol and drug testing for sites and positions that are safety sensitive, and to develop guidelines for management and follow-up. The participating companies are expected to put programs in place this summer and fall, and to begin testing thereafter.

“Generally, it’s going to be toward late fall and getting into year-end,” said project administrator Pat Atkins, a human resources manager with 25 years experience in the oilsands.

At the end of two years, DARRPP will report its findings and recommendations to the participants and government. Atkins anticipates that the companies taking part will continue with their new practices thereafter.

“There’s no intent to put programs in place and then stop them in two years.”

Drug and alcohol testing is already common in the oilsands, she said, particularly with respect to pre-site access, reasonable cause and post-incident tests.

“What they don’t have now is random testing.”

By implementing such testing, it is hoped that DARRPP can reveal if such policies are a deterrent.

“Alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace is an unfortunate reality in our society, and it poses serious risks to the individuals involved, their co-workers, families and communities,” said Atkins.

DARRPP has researched companies’ obligations with respect to human rights and privacy rights, and incorporated these into program requirements.

“Participating employers will all have alcohol and drug programs that ensure employees who test positive are treated fairly and receive appropriate aftercare if they are dependent.”

She estimated the companies and organizations taking part represent some 100,000 workers. Some have operations away from the oilsands, she added.

“There are organizations that are in Alberta but are not exclusively in (the Regional Municipality of) Wood Buffalo.”

Some other oilsands companies have expressed an interest in joining the project, and Atkins. She also suggested that the results and recommendations that result might be used in other areas of the province and in other industries.

“It certainly could be.

“We’re completely open with the work that we’ve done, so we’re happy to share it with other organizations.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com