Pubdate: Fri, 02 Sep 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Page: FP1
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Geoffrey Morgan


Workplace Safety Efforts Put in Jeopardy

CALGARY * Oil and gas companies are worried their efforts to curb 
drug use and improve safety standards on job sites could go up in 
smoke if Ottawa legalizes marijuana.

Oilpatch safety organization Enform, which is funded by industry 
groups including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, 
sent a letter this week to the federal government's Task Force on 
Marijuana Legalization and Regulation outlining concerns that 
marijuana would make worksites unsafe.

"Safety issues pertaining to alcohol and drug use and abuse are the 
forefront of the continuing challenges facing the upstream petroleum 
industry's efforts to control and reduce the risk of workplace 
injuries," Enform president and CEO Cameron MacGillvray wrote in the 
letter. "There can be no doubt that marijuana use is incompatible 
with working in a safety-sensitive workplace," he added.

The task force has made no indication that marijuana would 
automatically be allowed on job sites, but energy industry 
associations are concerned it could be.

"Maybe during a coffee break where employees are allowed to go to a 
smoking zone and they can fire up a joint now," Petroleum Services 
Association of Canada president Mark Salkeld said. "They're not 
allowed to open a beer, but these are things we want to have a 
conversation about and make sure there are clear policies."

Enform is demanding that, at a minimum, there should be "an express 
prohibition on the use of marijuana in safety-sensitive workplaces," 
as well as near those workplaces, and a prohibition on storing or 
selling marijuana at those workplaces.

Monique Orieux, an associate in Fasken Martineau's labour, employment 
and human rights group, said that companies have already developed 
protocols for employees that normally work in safety-sensitive 
workplaces that legally use marijuana - or other impairing drugs - 
thanks to medical prescriptions.

"The legalization of marijuana does not change the landscape that 
we're are operating in, being a concern for the safety of the worker 
who is consuming the substance and everybody else in the workplace," 
Orieux said.

Similarly, Borden Ladner Gervais partner Laurie Robson said: "The No. 
1 rule about coming to work is you have to be fit for duty." Alcohol, 
drugs, medication or even a lack of sleep, can affect a person's 
fitness to do their job, she said.

Asked how legalized marijuana would be controlled differently than 
alcohol, which is also legal but banned on work sites and at some 
oilsands camps, Salkeld said the drug "adds another level of complexity."

For one thing, he said, there is no breathalyzer test for marijuana 
that would show someone is impaired at the time of the test, as there 
is with alcohol.

"If an employee is randomly tested and they're found to have traces 
of THC or marijuana in their system, that's cause for dismissal. But 
that guy could have done it two weeks earlier on a weekend," Salkeld said.

That is also the position of the union fighting Suncor

Energy Inc. over its random drug testing program - that marijuana 
traces in an employee's bloodstream or urine sample shows past use, 
not impairment.

Suncor has been locked in a court battle with Unifor Local 707A for 
years over its random drug testing program, with the union saying the 
program is an infringement on their members' personal privacy.

Enform's letter, however, also said that marijuana use can cause a 
"hangover" that causes a "subtle effect on cognitive function" that 
would jeopardize the safety of work sites if employees arrived at 
work after getting stoned.

Right now, most oil and gas companies pre-screen for alcohol and drug 
abuse by demanding applicants provide urine samples before they are hired.

Many also demand employees take another drug test if there's an 
accident on a job site, and some conduct random drug tests.

A handful of oilsands companies also use drug sniffing dogs to hunt 
for drugs left at work camps or in lockers at work sites. Workers 
caught with drugs or under the influence of drugs are fired.

Salkeld said his association wants to have a conversation about how 
existing practices could be affected by marijuana legalization.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom