County reviewing drug testing policy

Richard Froese
South Peace News
Big Lakes County could soon step up alcohol and drug testing for its employees.

At its regular meeting Dec. 14, council approved a recommendation to forward proposed changes to its drug testing policy to human resources for review.

“The current policy was sent to the county’s solicitors for review and comment,” says Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

Administration was directed by council Nov. 23 to review and revise the policy that was first adopted Sept. 24, 2008.

Council has not reviewed the policy since.

Lawyer Kelsey Becker-Brookes advised the county to make several changes, including:

– Reference to council members must be removed since they are not employees and termination provisions cannot apply to council.
It is better to deal with council members in a code of conduct.

– With regard to random drug testing, it is acceptable if there is a reasonable cause, a near miss or an incident.
Random drug testing of employees in a safety-sensitive position is likely not defensible in the workplace where there is no evidence of pre-existing problems with drug and alcohol abuse on the job.
Random drug testing is now considered very invasive and requires significant justification.

-Pre-employment drug testing is not recommended.
Two issues arise; collection of personal information from that testing and ensuring it is managed appropriately.
The second is the risk that someone reveals a dependency, in which case the county will need to accommodate them.

– In the rehabilitation section, a reference to the need to accommodate in certain cases should be included.
Local governments throughout Alberta and Canada also have policies to test employees for drugs and alcohol.

In early January, the newly-elected Driftpile First Nations band council submitted to voluntary drug testing. Any future policy will not apply to its employees.

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