A report from the city of Jeffersonville, IN, into a fatal five-vehicle collision reveals that a city employee who was involved had taken two prescription drugs for back pain before starting his shift.
A garbage packer truck struck a small car driven by a 19-year-old woman, causing her death. She had stopped her vehicle in a road construction zone when the truck crashed into it. Three other vehicles were involved and three people were taken to hospital.
The report states that the garbage packer driver had taken Lortab and Flexeril for back pain. Both drugs contain warnings about operating machinery or driving. Lortab can cause light-headedness, dizziness, sleepiness, impaired thinking and impaired physical abilities, while Flexeril can cause dizziness.
Crum told police he had not seen three orange road work signs placed between 1,500 and 900 feet ahead of a flagger. The garbage packer hit the stopped car at about 35 miles per hour.
Share this story with your workers and warn them about driving while taking muscle relaxants/pain killers for back pain.Read More
CBC news has reported that a New Brunswick pulp and paper mill is contesting a ruling by an arbitrator stating that it cannot administer random alcohol tests to its workers.
Unionized workers at Irving Pulp and Paper Mill in Saint John, NB, won an arbitration that put the brakes on a 2006 company policy of randomly testing its workers to see if they had been drinking.
While random alcohol testing no longer occurs, employees who are suspected of drinking on the job are still being tested. The mill is seeking a judicial review of the arbitrator’s ruling.
Mike MacMullin, president of Local 30 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, says the company’s policy has drastically violated workers’ rights, presuming them “guilty” until proven innocent.
But company lawyer William Goss says the policy isn’t aimed at catching anyone drinking on the job, but rather toward promoting a safer workplace and deterring people from drinking on the job.Read More
A British bus line, National Express, is equipping its buses with devices that require drivers to self-test their blood alcohol levels before each run.
If they fail a breathalyzer test, the bus will not start. The system, called Alcolock, is being fitted to 500 National Express buses following a two-year test trial.
The company implemented the safety measure after one of its drivers crashed a bus on a major motorway in England, injuring 33 passengers in September 2007.
If a driver fails the breath test, the bus company’s control room is alerted, the level of impairment is automatically recorded and an investigation is ordered.Read More
Nukes and booze don’t mix, particularly when some US government employees whose job it was to transport nuclear weapons in trucks reportedly got drunk on the job.
Sixteen alcohol-related incidents among drivers have been investigated by the US Energy Department’s assistant inspector general. The incidents occurred between 2007 and 2009 and involved National Nuclear Security Administration Office of Surface Transportation personnel.
In certain cases some of the workers were detained by police while on the job. The agency prevents agents from consuming alcohol for 10 hours before they report to work. In several instances, workers parked vehicles in “safe harbors” before checking into hotels and drinking.Read More
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates as many as 20 percent of workers who die on the job in the United States test positive for alcohol or other drugs.
The situation is equally troubling in Canada. A study conducted by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Commission revealed that 11 percent of employees had used alcohol and 10 percent had used other drugs while at work during the past year.
Construction, mining, manufacturing and wholesale industries have the highest rates of drug use. Would you be able to name 10 indicators of possible substance abuse among workers?
Here’s a list of red flag issues:
Info to go: For information on dealing with suspected substance abusers in your workplace, click on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
The use of alcohol or other drugs by workers on duty is worrisome in any setting, but particularly in safety sensitive jobs where hundreds or thousands of lives could be at stake. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has raised a concern about marijuana use by BC Ferries crew members as it continues its investigation into the sinking of a ferry in Northern BC in March 2006.
The ferry sank after slamming into an island at full speed. Two people on board died.
The TSB says it has learned that several crew members on board the Queen of the North ferry regularly smoked pot between shifts, both on board and off the vessel. However, the board stressed that there was no evidence that crew members on the ship’s bridge were impaired at the time of the crash. BC Ferries has confirmed that no drug or alcohol tests were performed on crew members immediately afterwards.
The safety notice resulted in BC Ferries president David Hahn calling on the federal government to pass legislation permitting mandatory drug and alcohol testing for ferry operators across Canada. It would apply to all crew members holding safety sensitive positions.
Hahn says BC Ferries has a zero-tolerance policy regarding crew members’ consumption or possession of alcohol or other mood-altering substances that would render them unfit for duty. He adds that the company has terminated employees found to have breached the policy.
“Ferry crews whose performance is impaired by cannabis are a clear risk to the traveling public,” says Board Chair Wendy Tadros. “We are confident that BC Ferries will determine the extent of the problem and effectively manage this risk so it will not lead to a serious accident.”
The TSB has asked BC Ferries to determine “whether this behavior is present on board other vessels in its northern fleet” or was isolated to the Queen of the North.
“The TSB will be monitoring the progress made by BC Ferries on this issue and will be reporting on it in its final report into the sinking of the Queen of the North.”
Your workers’ actions don’t have to affect the safety of dozens or hundreds of others. Bad things can happen on the job to even one person who has shown poor judgment by working while impaired. Share this story with your workers.
Info to go: Read more about substance abuse and the workplace by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
A controversial 2006 Alberta court ruling that found a company had discriminated against a person who was fired for failing a drug test has been overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal.
Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sheilah Martin ruled in summer 2006 that a Fort McMurray, AB, employer had discriminated against worker John Chiasson by firing him after he tested positive for marijuana.
Martin ruled that Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), an engineering and construction firm, had treated Chiasson as though he was a drug addict and was therefore disabled. That meant firing him had contravened his human rights. Chiasson admitted to being only a casual user of marijuana.
The Alberta Court of Appeal has since ruled that extending human rights protections to situations that potentially place the lives of others at risk flies in the face of logic. It noted that the effects of marijuana can continue for several days after it is smoked.
“We see this case as being no different than that of a trucking or taxi company which has a policy requiring its employees to refrain from the use of alcohol for some time before the employee drives one of the employer’s vehicles,” the appeal court wrote.
KBR’s hiring policy at the time Chiasson was hired was to require all people seeking non-unionized positions to take and pass a drug test. Chiasson was tested on June 28, 2002. He assumed that the marijuana he had smoked about five days earlier would no longer be in his system. He was wrong.
Chiasson started working on July 8, 2002 and was fired nine days later after his drug test came back positive.
Brian Maynard, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) applauded the recent Alberta Court of Appeal decision, saying he’s pleased to see logic prevail. He noted that the safety of many trumps the rights of the individual.
Leanne Chahley, a labour lawyer practicing in Edmonton, told Safe Supervisor that while she is opposed to anyone in any position working under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, “there’s no science that tells me that the person who uses drugs recreationally on their off-duty time will ever come to work impaired or that someone who tests negative for drugs will always come to work unimpaired.”Read More
A British couple’s trip to New York City ended tragically when both were struck and killed by a garbage truck that jumped a curb and drove onto a sidewalk.
Another pedestrian was struck and seriously injured. Police say the 52-year-old truck driver suffered a seizure as a consequence of not taking his medication. A co-worker observed the driver foaming at the mouth and when the truck went out of control he tried to grab the wheel, but was unsuccessful in stopping the vehicle before the three pedestrians were struck.
This incident shows how important it is for workers to not miss doses of medication. There’s no going back if someone lapses into a seizure or insulin shock and others are hurt or killed as a result.Read More
Having a medical condition for which marijuana was legally prescribed didn’t stop a California worker from being fired after he failed a pre-employment drug test. And the California Supreme Court has ruled that the man’s firing was justified and that he has no recourse against his employer for discrimination.
Gary Ross, 45, was working as an Air Force mechanic when he fell from the wing of an F-16 fighter jet in 1983. He fractured three vertebrae in his back and has suffered pain and spasms ever since. In 1999, on his doctor’s recommendation, Ross began using marijuana to control the pain.
In September 2001 he was offered a job as lead systems administrator with RagingWire Inc. He was required to take a drug test and before doing so, Ross gave the clinic conducting the test a copy of his doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.
He took the test and was hired three days later. Three days after that Ross was suspended because the test had come back positive for marijuana. Several days later he was fired.
The court found that while California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allows people to smoke marijuana under a doctor’s recommendations, the act has no power over how an employer responds to the use of medical marijuana.
Ross claimed that not only was he being discriminated against on the basis of a medical disability, but also that he had been wrongfully dismissed. When a state court dismissed his case against RagingWire Inc., he took it to a California appellate court, which upheld the lower court’s decision, as did the California Supreme Court.
Even though California and about 11 other states, most in the western US, allow the medical use of marijuana under a doctor’s recommendation, US federal law prohibits it.Read More
Flying a helicopter is difficult enough, but the stakes go up when the pilot is hoisting heavy loads. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says a helicopter pilot who died in a crash in Alberta in 2006 was not trained for the task of filling a water bucket from a lake.
The helicopter clipped some trees and crashed into the ground, killing Dave Naar, 35. A TSB investigation found that Naar had been hired by Remote Helicopters (NWT) Ltd. of Slave Lake to transport a fire boss to various fires. But Naar was asked by forestry officials to provide water bucket support and he agreed, although he had not been trained to do so.
The task involved filling and lifting water buckets weighing 880 pounds (400 kilograms). Another possible factor in the crash was that Naar had taken allergy medication that carried a warning about possible drowsiness.
As a result of the fatality, Remote Helicopters has reportedly begun issuing competency cards to pilots. The cards show what aircraft they have been trained to fly and operations they are permitted to perform.Read More