The Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) recently published version 5.0 of their “Canadian Model”, The Canadian Model For Providing a Safe Workplace: Drug and Alcohol Guidelines And Work Rule v5.0. This version features a welcome increase in both clarity and readability, and a number of sections have been overhauled, including a much-improved section outlining the role, function, and qualifications of the Substance Abuse Expert (SAE).

COAA’s Canadian Model v5.0 also includes important policy and regulation changes. Two of the most notable changes relate to Medical Review Officer (MRO) reporting and point-of-collection testing.

MRO Safety Advisories

An MRO can now attach a safety advisory to a negative test result. If a donor is taking prescribed levels of a medication that could cause on-site impairment, an MRO can include a safety advisory with a negative test result when reporting to a company’s Designated Employer Representative (DER). According to the Model, “A safety advisory indicates a medical clearance is required prior to performing safety-sensitive duties in accordance with the job description” (Appendix A, Section II.27).

This is a noteworthy policy change that brings COAA’s model more closely in line with the US DOT regulations. As a result of this change, DERs may now discover previously unreported employee prescription drug use, which is an excellent opportunity to open dialogue between the employer and the employee.


Point-of-Collection Testing

Results from a point-of-collection test (POCT) that follows COAA’s model can now be used as part of an evaluation of a worker’s fitness to return to work following a post-incident or reasonable cause collection. The device used must be a Health Canada-licensed in-vitro diagnostic device (IVDD)–also referred to as a point-of-care testing (POCT) device–and the device must screen for the same drugs and cut-off levels as the DOT laboratory test. The test must be administered by a DOT-trained collector, and all standard chain of custody and quality control measures must be observed (Section 4.8.5).

The DrugCheck® NxStep urine drug test cup is available in a 7-panel configuration at the cut-off levels required. The cup is available with or without a 6-panel specimen validity test (SVT). The part number for this device is 60725.

This is a welcome change in COAA’s model that can expedite the back-to-work process for employees in a post-incident situation who were previously relieved of duty pending the laboratory test results.

The Canadian Model?

These changes show that COAA’s drug testing model is evolving to ensure workplace safety while meeting the needs of employers. Not all employers have the same needs, however, and while COAA’s model provides a useful set of guidelines for any drug testing program in Canada, employers outside of COAA can implement drug testing procedures not covered by COAA’s model.

This means, for example, that you can incorporate oral fluid point-of-care tests into your drug testing program to help mitigate cross-gender collection issues, even though COAA’s model does not include the use of POCT oral fluid devices.

We encourage every employer and organization looking to implement or update a Canadian drug testing program to keep up-to-date with all aspects of drug testing in Canada. This includes changes to COAA’s drug testing model, changes to the US DOT model, as well as changes to Canadian drug testing legislation and best practices.