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New BC Drug Testing & Treatment Program Policy is a Step in the Right Direction

The Construction Labour Relations Association of BC (CLRA BC) and the Bargaining Council of BC Building Trades Unions are to be commended for recognizing the importance of having a safe, healthy, substance-free work place. After a review of the Construction Industry of British Columbia Substance Abuse Testing and Treatment Program Policy it appears that both parties have created a substance abuse policy that protects employees’ health and safety while respecting their rights.

Why This New Substance Abuse Policy is so Important

As a provider of residential treatment that sees clients in the late stages of their addictions to drugs and/or alcohol, we at Sunshine Coast Health Center know firsthand the impact that addictions have on individuals and their families. We support any initiative that has the potential to intervene earlier before substance use becomes dependence. Families, teachers, and employers are truly the front line of addiction prevention efforts in our communities and that is why this new policy is so important.

What We Like About this Policy

There is a lot to like about the new Drug Testing & Treatment Program Policy developed by the BC building trades industry. Highlights of this bold initiative include:

  1. collaboration between management and the union – for any drug-free workplace program to be effective it must have broad-based support. By involving both business and labour in the development and implementation of this policy, it sends a strong signal to the employer that substance abuse in the workplace is no longer acceptable.
  2. built-in provisions to protect human rights – by appointing an independent third party to administer the Policy, employees have a higher likelihood that their personal information will be not be collected, used and disclosed by management or other employees. Section 7.01 also has provisions for employees to explain positive test to an independent medical professional (the Medical Review Officer) and retesting by a certified laboratory. Furthermore, Section Eight allows employees to disclose, or seek help for, a problem with drugs or alcohol without fear of discipline.
  3. strict reinstatement requirements – in this labour climate where good help is in short supply, it is tempting to turn a blind eye to substance abuse in the workplace. To avoid rule bending, the BC building trade substance abuse policy leaves the decision to reinstate an employee for work with an independent third party. Furthermore, the same independent third party can prescribe treatment, counselling or drug rehabilitation without outside interference from the employer
  4. ongoing monitoring – employees are subject to a probationary period of two years that includes follow-up drug testing. Follow-up drug testing, when included as part of a broader monitoring program, has a substantial impact on positive outcomes *.

(*) Medical professionals that risk losing their license to practice medicine for failing to comply with monitoring program have consistently shown above average abstinence rates.


The willingness of business and labour to put their differences aside is especially noteworthy considering the long history of labour conflict in British Columbia. Now it appears that BC, thanks to the leadership of the building trades, is providing much-needed leadership for business and labour across Canada.

If you are an employer and are considering a drug-free workplace program for your company, Sunshine Coast Health Center has created a free publication, You Are the Key: 10 Steps for Employers to a Drug-Free Workplace, To order a copy see the Order a Brochure section of our website.

To see an online version see the Construction Industry of BC Substance Abuse Testing and Treatment Program Policy section of the CLRA BC website.

About the Author

Daniel Jordan is the General Manager of Sunshine Coast Health Center and hopes that these postings will help  take away some of the mystery often associated with addiction and its treatment.

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