B.C. arbitrator sets aside random drug and alcohol testing at coal mines

Company couldn’t prove workplace problem with drugs and alcohol that justified collection of employees’ personal information
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/28/2018

Once more, the issue of random drug and alcohol testing has come up within an industry where safety sensitive workplaces abound. The industry this time: coal mining. While post incident and reasonable cause testing were introduced and accepted years ago in certain British Columbia coal mines, when the employer tried to introduce random testing, it didn’t go quite so smoothly. And in the end, it followed the trail established in recent decisions elsewhere.

The latest round in the conflict over random alcohol and drug testing in the workplace has gone in favour of workers and unions, as an arbitrator has ruled a British Columbia coal mining company cannot continue its testing of workers without evidence of a real problem with impairment at its facilities.

Teck Coal operates five coal mines in southeast B.C. that feature mine operations, mine maintenance, and coal plant operations. The mines operate heavy equipment such as large haul trucks, electric shovels, dozers, loaders, graders, and fuelling equipment, often in close proximity. The mines also run 24 hours a day, seven days a week in all types of conditions.