On September 20th, the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench quashed a November 2009 alcohol testing award that held Irving Pulp & Paper had insufficient justification to implement random alcohol testing at a pulp mill.
The Court held that the majority of an arbitration board erred by finding that employers who operate “dangerous workplaces” (in which there is a risk of an accident with catastrophic consequences) must demonstrate a history of alcohol-related incidents to justify random alcohol testing. It suggested that if a workplace is dangerous, a program of random alcohol testing by breathalyzer that applies only to safety-sensitive positions is reasonable.
This is a significant judgment that is far more tolerant of random testing for current impairment than Arbitrator Michel Picher’s leading Imperial Oil case from 2007, affirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal as reasonable in May 2009. The Court noted the Imperial Oil decision, but did not make comment on it in its analysis.