Rail chief makes case for random drug testing in Canada

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CALGARY, Alta. — Canadian Pacific Railway CEO Hunter Harrison came out strongly in favour of random drug testing for Canadian employees in safety-sensitive positions earlier this week.

This, after CPR was ordered to reinstate a locomotive engineer who was involved in a serious rules violation and later found to have consumed cocaine. The Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration ruled the engineer be reinstated, which caused Harrison to speak out.

“The Arbitrator’s decision is an outrage and, as a railroader, I am appalled we would be forced to place this employee back in the cab of a locomotive. On my watch, this individual will not operate a locomotive,” said  Harrison, CP’s Chief Executive Officer. “The decision sets a dangerous precedent and is grossly unacceptable for the safe operation of a railway.”

He said rules that keep Canadian employers from conducting random drug and alcohol testing must be changed.

“This decision highlights the need for further public debate regarding the rights of an individual when employed in positions involving the safety of the public. Companies in Canada need the ability to carry out random drug tests as safety should trump the rights of any individual who makes the dangerous choice to place themselves, their coworkers and the general public at risk,” said Harrison, who noted railroads – like trucking firms – in the US are required by federal law to perform random drug tests.

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  • Mr. Harrison has it right. To think such a bureaucratic ignorant group would put a man who was under the influence of an illegal drug back into a locomotive cab that pulls hundred of tons of commodities, including dangerous chemicals, should be pulled from their job and be randomly tested. They are obviously on something. Keeping the public and fellow employees safe is the highest of priorities for any company in business. It has always been the priority of CP and Mr. Harrison as well as CN and the other class I railroads.

  • Most urine drug tests use a metabolite of cocaine to detect whether or not prior use of cocaine has occurred. The metabolite is Benzyoleconine (BE). It is non-psycoactive, as such its detection does not address the issue of whether or not the employee was impaired at the time of the accident. So, how did the arbitrator in this case determine that the locomotive engineer’s prior use of cocaine affected his workplace performance??