Remember the infamous Exxon Valdes Alaskan oil spill. Think about a recent Toronto, Ontario case where a bus operator was involved in a collision that killed a passenger. In both of these cases, and in many others, drug or alcohol use was alleged as a relevant factor in the accident investigation where public safety was involved. Given that our work is certainly dangerous at times and involves public safety, expecting to work with a partner who is sober and drug free has a definite appeal to it. I can rhyme off a number of potential benefits to public safety (and that of my own safety) that might be enhanced by some kind of drug and alcohol testing policy. On the other hand, it is also a topic with worrisome civil liberties and human rights implications. Improperly motivated, developed, or applied, these types of policies may also subvert the importance of public safety and turn it into a proverbial witch hunt that can hurt more Paramedics than it aims to help, and on that note, despite my awareness of some benefits, I also have concerns.
Perhaps the issue is best explored not from a perspective that either says yes or no to testing, but rather aims to answer a number of smaller questions first:
· What type of evidence suggests that some form of drug or alcohol testing it is actually
needed in a given workplace?
· If it is recommended for one Paramedic service, should it be used in all Paramedic
· When and under what circumstances should it be used?
· How should the results of such testing be used?
· What concerns you about the thought of such a policy being implemented in your
Share your thoughts. I'd really welcome comments (now or in the future) from Paramedics or other emergency service workers from anywhere in Canada or across the globe on this one.