Random testing a go at Suncor

Expected to begin in first quarter of 2019 at oil sands work sites

Random testing a go at Suncor
A Suncor refinery is seen in Sherwood Park, near Edmonton on Nov. 13, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Loretta Bouwmeester

Safety matters. Controlling impairment as a potential hazard has evidently continued to be a priority for Suncor even with the energy sector under pressure on multiple fronts. It has been a long road for Suncor trying to implement random drug and alcohol testing at its Wood Buffalo sites in northern Alberta. One that had many a speedbump and even U-turns at times.

But it recently reached a settlement with the union, Unifor, Local 707A. 

So nearly seven years after the journey began, Suncor will start random testing in the first quarter of 2019 at its oil sands work sites. Contractors were notified by Suncor on Nov. 29 that they will also be required to conduct random tests on their workers in safety sensitive positions on designated Suncor sites. The announcement was sent via email by Supplier Engagement and was intended for Suncor suppliers providing on-site services in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. In the New Year, more details will be provided by Suncor to its contractors.

However, this is a potential game changer for safety-sensitive positions and work sites like Suncor’s. The tide is turning; driven in part by the recent legalization of recreational cannabis. Cannabis has the potential to cause impairment in the workplace and is now readily, and legally, available to workers. It is also driven by the "risk based approach" to managing the hazard of impairment that we see arbitrators adopting.

This said, it is important to remember that other employers will also have to carry out a careful and thorough analysis as to whether or not random testing is appropriate for their safety sensitive positions and work sites. Yet another good reason to review, and update as required, your fitness for duty or drug and alcohol policy.

This article was written with assistance from Jo-Ann Munn Gafuik, an associate in Mathews Dinsdale & Clark's Calgary office.