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TTC approves random drug and alcohol testing

The Toronto Transit Commission has approved a staff report recommending random drug and alcohol tests for employees.

It will take a year or two to implement, the TTC said. The plan is the first of its kind in Canada.

During the Wednesday meeting, union president Bob Kinnear said the union has always instructed workers not to show up to work impaired, but criticized the TTC’s handling of the issue.

He said he learned about the proposal from a TTC press release, and accused the TTC of “taking the easy way out” and “fooling the public” by doing this.

A TTC bus driver was charged with criminal negligence and possession of cannabis after a bus crash killed a passenger in August – but the transit body said it has been considering changes long before that collision.

William Ainsworth, 51, was not deemed to be impaired while driving and was not tested for drugs at the scene of the crash.

The TTC first considered random drug and alcohol testing in 2008, but did not go through with the proposal.

Employees will be subjected to saliva swabs and breathalyzer tests, the TTC said Wednesday.

During the meeting, Kinnear had three questions for the panel. He wanted to know how much it would cost and if employees would be off the job for testing; if the TTC planned to test for sleep deprivation; and if the TTC had considered other technology for drug and alcohol tests.

“While there have been public incidents recently that are cause for significant concern, in September 2008 the Commission approved a staff recommendation to implement a fitness for duty policy to reduce the risk of employees being impaired while at work,” the TTC said in a release Monday.

“The Commission, however, did not approve the staff recommendation to include random alcohol and drug testing. TTC staff indicated they would revisit the policy at a later date.”

The TTC’s former policy allows for alcohol and drug testing of those in safety-sensitive positions, specified management positions and designated executive positions.

Testing is also permitted under the following circumstances:

  • pre-employment/certification
  • reasonable cause
  • post-incident
  • post-violation
  • post-treatment

With files from Michael Talbot