Pubdate: Mon, 07 Jan 2008
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Carol Christian
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


An oilsands lobby group is relieved to see common sense prevail in 
the Alberta Court of Appeals' recent decision to put the safety of 
many above the recreational drug use of one.

In a decision dated Dec. 28, the Court of Appeal overturned a lower 
court's ruling, upholding corporate drug testing policies. The court 
ruled John Chiasson had not been discriminated against when fired 
from his position at Syncrude Canada in 2002 after testing positive 
for marijuana in his pre-employment drug test. He had been contracted 
by Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR).

"We are encouraged to see logic prevail in this situation where 
safety of the many is seen as paramount to the rights of the 
individual," said Brian Maynard, vice-president of the Canadian 
Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), this morning.

In rendering its decision, the trio of appeal judges wrote "Extending 
human rights protections to situations resulting in placing the lives 
of others at risk flies in the face of logic." In its decision, the 
court also pointed out information about drug testing and subsequent 
firings for positive tests were clearly stated in KBR's hiring policy.

"We are pleased with Alberta Court of Appeal's decision in the John 
Chiasson case," said Heather L. Browne, KBR spokeswoman in an e-mail 
this morning. "KBR is a leader in workplace safety and maintaining 
that commitment is the company's top priority. The court's ruling 
upholds that commitment and we look forward to continuing our work in 
that regard."

While CAPP recognizes the need to accommodate legitimate human rights 
issues, there remains the possibility this case could be further 
appealed. Industry has more clarity now than it had before with the 
drug testing issue.

"I think you'll see industry reacting in accordance with this current 
decision," added Maynard. "(We're) very encouraged to see a step in 
the right direction."

This type of law "is evolving and we're watching very closely. 
Obviously we will review this ruling with great interest," said Alain 
Moore, Syncrude spokesman. Syncrude was one of a number of companies 
that had some type of intervenor status during the appeal hearing in 
October 2007.

After Chiasson was fired, hecomplained to the Alberta Human Rights 
Commission. It ruled he was not discriminated against.

In 2006, Justice Sheilah Martin of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench 
overturned that decision, ruling Chiasson should have been treated 
the same as someone with a drug addiction which is considered a 
disability under human-rights case law.

During its review of the case, the appeals court noted that the human 
rights panel decision finding Chiasson was employed in a safety 
sensitive position at a hazardous work site because there was no 
perceived disability. The evident logic was if KBR had perceived a 
disability, Chiasson would not have been assigned that type of work.

While the lower court had ruled he should have been treated as 
someone with an addiction, it was determined Chiasson was not a drug 
addict given the evidence, and his own admission he was only a 
recreational pot smoker, according to court documents.

Also, his termination was not based on the perception by any KBR 
employees that he was a drug addict. Those were findings of fact made 
by the human rights panel, and as such are reviewable on a standard 
of patent unreasonableness.

"It's one of the biggest issues for the industry," noted Maynard. "We 
take safety very, very seriously, whether it's the safety of our 
employees or safety of the communities in which we operate. All of 
which can be potentially exposed if you have someone who is suffering 
from the effects of drugs or alcohol. To us, it is a little bit 
illogical that you would put people's lives at risk. Anything that 
.. improves safety ... is a step in the right direction."

While drug and alcohol use continue to be priorities in industry 
safety, CAPP and its members continue work on other safety issues 
such as safe driving practices, cellphone use while working and fatigue.

The research is fairly clear on cellphone usage, said Maynard: it is 
a major distraction and an unsafe practice. He added many member 
companies already have cellphone policies in place, prohibiting their 
use during work. That also comes into play for drivers, whether it's 
driving a heavy hauler or a small personal use vehicles.

CAPP is also looking at best practices around fatigue management that 
calls for an education program with employees and supervisors to 
recognize early symptoms.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom