City adds random testing to drug, alcohol policy
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria’s volunteer firefighters may now undergo random drug and alcohol tests.
But it’s not because there’s been a problem.
Department leaders requested the city to include the firefighters in the city’s substance abuse policy as another way of demonstrating how committed firefighters are to their duties.
“We’re trying to be progressive,” Fire Chief Jeff Karrow told the Alexandria City Council at its March 28 meeting. “We’re setting the bar for other departments and taking it to the next level.”
Karrow said the random drug testing fits in with the department’s new motto: “Professional, dedicated role models.”
The council approved the random testing revisions in the city’s substance abuse policy on a 5-0 vote.
Firefighters were added under the list of employees considered in “safety sensitive positions,” in which an impairment caused by drug or alcohol use would threaten the health or safety of any person.
Employees under this classification are the only ones who are subject to random testing.
The addition of random testing was the only change in the policy. A few other highlights of the existing policy include:
• General provisions. The city prohibits the unlawful use, possession, distribution, transfer and sale of alcohol and illegal drugs at work and on all premises owned or operated by the city.
It also prohibits employees from reporting for work, operating machinery or equipment, or working anywhere on behalf of the city while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
The policy doesn’t prohibit an employee from being under the influence of valid, prescribed medications, provided that the medications don’t adversely affect the employee’s ability to safely perform job duties.
• Job applicants. All applicants for city employment are required to undergo testing for alcohol and illegal drugs after a conditional job offer is made.
Applicants have the right to refuse but if they do, the city’s conditional job offer will be automatically withdrawn.
If the test comes back positive, the applicant has the right to explain why that was the case. Applicants can indicate, for example, that they were taking over-the-counter or prescription medicine.
If the initial result of a test is positive, the sample will be subject to a second, confirmatory test. If this also comes back positive, the job offer will be withdrawn. Applicants again have the right to explain and can request a retest but they’d have to pay for the test.
• When testing may be required. An employee may be requested to undergo a test if there is reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs; has violated the general provisions; has caused an injury; has caused a work-related accident; has operated or helped operate machinery, equipment or vehicles involved in a work-related accident.
Employees have the right to refuse to undergo a test but will be subject to discharge or other disciplinary action.
• Notification of convictions. An employee must notify the city in writing of any criminal drug statute conviction no later than five days after such a conviction.
The city will notify the appropriate federal agency of such a conviction within 10 days after receiving the notice.
Employees who drive for work purposes must notify the city if they lose their driver’s license.