Category Archives: Responsibility

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath at every moment.”

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I got a call from a union representative to call a guy. He never got back to me with the name but the next day a man called me 5 times and left two messages within 45 minutes and the messages said he failed a drug test and to call him right away. It sounded urgent and five calls in a short period seemed excessive. I called within 60 minutes of the last message he left but he there was no answer so I left a message. I imagine that it was the guy referred to by the union man. I found that strange to call so many times in a short period of time, leave two messages and not be there when I call.  Maybe there was an emergency……….?

When the union man called me he asked me if I could help the union member. I said that I could but I would need cooperation.  It is not a one sided thing. I can’t make someone change unless they want to change.

What I mean by this small story that seems to happen allot in one way or another is that every action shows something as Emerson expounds upon in his essay.  Tell me one thing and do another. Don’t show up or be late. It all says something.  I would suggest everone Read Emerson.

 

 

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Addiction Assessment for the Workplace and Return to Work Process

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When an employee first learns that the assessment has determined they have a substance problem and they need help, the question I love to hear is, “What do I have to do to get better?” But the question I get often is, “When I am going back to work?” The answer to the second question is in the first question. Appropriate action from the employee will make a good case for returning to work. Remember that these employees are off work for a reason – safety!

During a follow-up interview after treatment, I ask, “What are you doing today that makes it reasonable for me to assume that you are not going back to your drug of choice?” I look for two key indicators that an employee is working on themselves: action and attitude. First, they need to be doing something to help themselves. When they are, they also feel better. When employees are grateful for the chance to change, I believe they are on the right track. Gratitude and action together shows me that they are moving ahead. This does not happen overnight, so the employer has to have strong boundaries, only returning employees to safety-sensitive work once certain actions are fulfilled.

People are people, and what they say they are going to do, they don’t always do. Some people are moved to change when the pressure is on, but after that their effort dwindles. The return-to-work process cannot be dogmatic or inflexible; it must be reasonable. Sometimes we just have to give some solid direction and wait to see what happens.

While looking for characteristics in the employee and their behaviour that indicate a good change is taking place. I ask myself, “Does this person have a reasonable chance of not allowing alcohol or drugs to affect their job when they return to work?” The key word is reasonable. The process must be fluid while taking into account what the employee does. Are they moving away from drug usage or back to it?

If a person attends counselling rehab or self-help, the ultimate goal is the same, to get sober, stay sober and become a useful, safe employee that is not a risk due to substances. Just as addiction has recurring patterns or themes, recovery has patterns and themes that indicate whether the person is going in the right direction or not.

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Returning a worker to Work after Alcohol or Drug Infraction

20170710_114319One day in a shopping mall I overheard a conversation between two young ladies. One was telling the other that she had just failed her driving test because she did not completely stop at a stop sign. Apparently, the examiner immediately cancelled the rest of the test and told her she had failed because of that one action. She told her friend how shocked and hurt she was as she felt she performed pretty well during the other parts of the driving test. She was furious at the examiner for not passing her. She claimed it was all his fault that she didn’t pass.

I thought about how this story relates to my role in the whole return-to-duty process. The driving examiner was preventing unsafe drivers from getting their license. The young woman thought that since she only went through one stop sign and didn’t hurt anyone, she should be forgiven. She reasoned that lots of people go through stop signs without harm. The difference was she was with an examiner trained to spot mistakes. If she was unable to refrain from going through a stop sign with an examiner in the car, what kind of driver would she be when she was by herself? That is basically how I look at return-to-duty as well. If an employee is not going to make the effort to help themselves while they are out of work and being monitored, why would they make any effort to stay well when they are returned to their job functions?

The answer is that they won’t.

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There is No Magic to Sober Someone Up but ….

There is No Magic to Sober Someone Up

but

The Magic is in the Process

I don’t have any power over anyone and I can’t sober people up and keep them that way. That is way beyond my capabilities. There can be some magic created when an employee has to face a well- run process that causes them to have to look at themselves. There is the magic. That is my experience and that is what I have seen. We don’t wait for people to “come around” and take on that risk and liability. We act with a process that has boundaries and that makes people accountable for their own actions.

Steve Chandler, a business author, has a book where he discusses the choice between people pleasing others or serving them. Serving them gives them reality and employees acting out sometimes are very unhappy to get a dose of that. People pleasing is what the suffering employee wants because they don’t really want to change. They tell you they want to change and promise this is the last time but they don’t. Baby them, tell them it is all right this time, bend the rules and risk an unsafe workplace and they will be happy with you but that is people pleasing and it could bite you in a bad place down the road. Serving can be unpopular but it is the right and safe thing to do. The employee won’t like it but they may thank you for saving their life when they do straighten up.  Do you serve or people please?

 

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Nova Scotia Doctor Charged With Trafficking Oxys, this is very bad

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1344413-n.s.-doctor-charged-with-trafficking-oxy-pills

Prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are shown in this June 20, 2012 photo. (CP)

Prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are shown in this June 20, 2012 photo. (CP)

A Nova Scotia doctor has been charged with drug trafficking after police accused her of prescribing 50,000 potent opioid pills to a hospital patient who never received them.

Bridgewater police said Wednesday that 35-year-old Sarah Dawn Jones wrote prescriptions for oxycodone and oxyneo pills of a variety of dosages over a one-year period.

Police Chief John Collyer said it’s alleged the physician prescribed the powerful painkillers for a patient at the local hospital, but picked up the prescriptions herself at a Bridgewater pharmacy.

He said he’s concerned that a doctor is at the centre of the case, in a province that’s seen a series of deaths of young people tied to illegally circulating prescription drugs. According to the Canadian Journal of Addiction Medicine, there were 295 deaths tied to prescription drugs in Nova Scotia between 2007 and 2010.

“The trafficking of prescription narcotics is a problem throughout Nova Scotia. We’ve had a number of high profile deaths over the years, so we take it very seriously,” Collyer said in a telephone interview.

Jones is also accused of possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking, theft, breach of trust, drawing a document without authority and fraud.

This isn’t the first time a health care professional in Nova Scotia has been accused of malpractice in relation to prescription drugs. Dr. Trevor Locke, a family doctor based in Truro, was reprimanded in November for loosely prescribing opiates and failing to meet standards.

In September, Amanda Reid pleaded guilty to selling hydromorphone and fentanyl after stealing the drugs from the hospital where she worked.

Dr. Gus Grant, registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Nova Scotia, said medicine as an industry needs to accept a degree of responsibility for the “extraordinarily damaging social reality” of prescription drug abuse in Nova Scotia, and continue working to find solutions.

“Medicine has an important ownership to claim part of this problem,” he said in an interview. “I think finding a solution begins with a broader and clearer awareness of the extent of this problem within the medical profession and society as a whole.”

Grant said the college works closely with physicians to ensure opioid painkillers are always prescribed appropriately. The college also conducts peer reviews, as well as investigating and initiating complaints.

“We point physicians in the direction of resources and learning tools that will allow them to continue prescribing appropriately,” he said.

“We are primarily a watchdog, but I like to think we’re a guide dog as well.”

Grant also said the Nova Scotia prescription monitoring program, which he runs, is a great resource for physicians, regulators and lawmakers.

The provincially-funded program tracks specific prescription data for monitored drugs all over the province.

“Everything in medicine begins with data,” he said.

“The prescription monitoring program is an important tool for physicians to provide good care, and get feedback about the use of medications by their patients. It also allows regulators to track prescription data. We can track how much prescribing is being done, by whom, and where.”

Jones worked at the Crossroads Family Practice in the Halifax suburb of Tantallon, but Grant said she’s under an interim suspension and has stopped practising.

He also said Jones’ alleged crimes were reported to the college by a clinical pharmacist.

“The proactive steps taken by the individual who contacted the college should be applauded. That’s what health professionals should do,” he said. “The college and law enforcement have also worked very well together in this regard.”

Jones has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in provincial court in Bridgewater on May 11.

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Last Chance Agreements

Last Chance Agreements

There is another tool for accountability that can be used in certain situations with an employee if you have decided that their next disciplinary action is termination. This tool makes it very clear that certain behaviour will not be tolerated.

Basically, it is a document that is drawn up by the employer where it has been agreed that no more chances will be given to this employee unless certain continued conditions are met. Legal counsel is desirable in this type of agreement to make sure that the document is solid in the eyes of the law. It is then thoroughly explained to the employee what the conditions are for continued employment like passing drug tests or showing up for work on time for example. The effect of the agreement is that it promotes the idea that there is a limit to what the employer will tolerate. The employee hopefully gets the picture that firm boundaries are in place and the next and final action will be termination.

The employee agrees to behave in an acceptable manner going forward and could be terminated without a grievance or a legal dispute if problems arise. That agreement is then signed as a condition for their return to work. This may be a very useful tool as it promotes responsible action by helping the person realize that there are serious consequences to continued poor choices that affect workplace performance.

Unfortunately, with some individuals, even that consequence does not promote enough motivation for a change in behaviour. They slip and get back on some substance and are caught and that is that. Strangely enough, this is when many addicts actually look at themselves after they have lost their job so this scenario can have a positive outcome. I have seen recovering addicts re-apply for their job after a year of clean time and get it because they have straightened out their life so all is not lost.

What do you do if you think there may be hope when the employee slips? You can keep an employee working after they violated a last chance agreement if you feel they deserve another chance. Maybe a re-assessment is in order to see what their motivation for change really is and if there is a solid action plan. You can then let them go or keep them on the payroll as you will have more information to make your choice after the assessment. There may have been a good long period of acceptable behaviour and you may believe that the slip was more of a bump in the road than a permanent decent. Again, last chance agreements are not for all situations but simply another tool worth knowing about in dealing with substance abuse issues. From what I have seen, accountability promotes behaviour change with substance abuse and addiction and this is one way to help and keep the workplace safe.last chance

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Alcohol and Drug Testing are not Illegal if done within a policy. Do they have a policy?

The recent arrest of a Sunwing Airlines pilot in Calgary is spurring questions about Canadian laws around alcohol testing for pilots and crew—protocols which appear to be unclear to airlines themselves, Global News has learned.

On Dec. 31, the pilot tested at three times over the legal alcohol limit two hours after he was found unconscious in the cockpit.

READ MORE: Calgary police charge Sunwing Airlines pilot with being drunk before takeoff

Sunwing spokesperson Jacqueline Grossman originally suggested it is “illegal in Canada to do mandatory full or random drug or alcohol testing on employees” in an email to Global News Monday night.

But the federal government says there is no specific provision in the Canada Labour Code addressing alcohol or drug testing in the workplace.

“This is the first such incident that has occurred in our 11-year history as an airline,” Grossman said in an updated statement Tuesday.

“As a federally regulated airline with unionized workers, our initial legal advice has been that we are not in a position to enforce drug or alcohol testing for our workers. That said, it is a complex legal issue which requires further review.”

Watch below: Miroslav Gronych, 37, will appear in court Jan. 5 after police say his blood alcohol was three times the legal limit. Reid Fiest reports.

Miroslav Gronych, a Slovakian national in Canada on a work visa, was escorted from the aircraft after the gate crew and the co-pilot noticed odd behaviour and alerted police. He was charged with having care and control of an aircraft while impaired and having care and control of an aircraft while having a blood alcohol level over .08 (or exceeding 80 mgs of alcohol per 100mL of blood).

Calgary police said he was released on $1,000 bail and had to surrender his passport. He is also suspended from flying any other aircraft in Canada.

Dr. Gregg Bendrick, an aerospace medicine specialist who also works as a senior aviation medical examiner with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said Monday there is a clear drug and alcohol testing program for commercial airline pilots in the U.S., which includes a random testing component. He said anyone identified as impaired would then be evaluated to see if they suffer from alcoholism.

READ MORE: Sunwing Airlines on drunk pilot arrested in Calgary – all foreign pilots trained, approved

He said the reading of “three times the legal limit” reported by Calgary police would mean a reading of about 2.4 mgs of alcohol per 100mL of blood, raising the possibility of an addiction.

Grossman said Gronych had “no previous violations of this nature in his file” and that he’s been suspended pending a Jan. 5 court date.

Grossman originally referred Global News to the Canadian Human Rights Act for details on how a “non-legislated drug or alcohol testing program in a private sector company would be challenged.”

But Employment and Social Development Canada said random testing is legal.

“Random testing of employees in safety-sensitive positions (defined as those in which incapacity due to drug or alcohol impairment could result in direct and significant risk of injury to the employee, others or the environment) has been determined to be permissible in a number of circumstances, as long as employees are notified that alcohol testing is a condition of employment,” spokesperson Amélie Maisonneuve said in an email sent Tuesday to Global News.

“Currently, there is no specific provision in the Canada Labour Code addressing drug and alcohol testing in the workplace.”

She then referred Global News to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on their Policy on Alcohol and Drug Testing, which reads, in part:

If testing is part of a broader program of medical assessment, monitoring and support, employers can test for alcohol in any of the following situations:

  • on a random basis, for employees who hold safety-sensitive positions;
  • for “reasonable cause,” where an employee reports for work in an unfit state and there is evidence of substance abuse;
  • after a significant incident or accident has occurred and there is evidence that an employee’s act or omission may have contributed to the incident or accident; or
  • following treatment for alcohol abuse, or disclosure of a current alcohol dependency or abuse

Transport Canada said it is “currently reviewing the pilot’s records and Sunwing Airlines’ procedures and protocols,” however, said the airline is responsible for any disciplinary action against the pilot. A spokesperson said alcohol testing was outside the realm of Transport Canada’s involvement in the incident.

“Air carriers are responsible for their own human resources policies, including random drug and alcohol testing,” spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said in an email to Global News.

Air Canada and the Air Canada Pilots Association did not respond to Global News requests for comment on their policies.

A WestJet spokesperson said the company has an “alcohol and drug policy that provides for testing in a manner that is consistent with Canadian law.” WestJet declined to comment on the specifics of the policy, including whether pilots are aware of alcohol testing and whether it is random.

With files from Reid Fiest

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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This Employee Straightened Up and Taught Me Something

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Yesterday I ran into an employee whom I had seen for an assessment several years ago. I knew that he had been doing all right as he had called me a few times wanting to clarify some things I had recommended but I had not seen him face to face for almost 2 years though. At the time of the assessment he was in a mess, taking cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis regularly and working in a safety sensitive job. His employer was seeing signs of something but they were not sure what. They figured it out that it may be substance abuse related and they asked me to see him. I saw him and it was a protracted and complicated case which was drawn out and was many months before the guy returned to work. He was in bad shape but really did not see this at all at the time. He was in denial badly. I knew that there was a well- functioning adult in there somewhere or at least I was hoping. He also had a young wife who was expecting.

Well, eventually he finally satisfied me that he was doing ok and went back to work. He had some things to work through but eventually he thanked me. I told him he should thank his company for putting in checks and balances in their policy and making him accountable for his behavior. That is what helped him and he just made a choice to do something different and work at his decision.

So when I saw him at the gas station yesterday I saw that he had a nice car and he was cleaned up very well. He seemed happy. I asked him if he had been naughty or nice because there is only 7 weeks left till Christmas. He told me that he was being nice and his daughter was now two years old. I was very pleased with this for several reasons.

First, glad to see a guy straighten up and fly right instead of making a mess of his life. One addict affects many others so they are not being affected right now.

The other reason is that I get people who have problems but they cannot see it. They eventually get fired or reprimanded and sometimes they blame their behavior on me which is typical of someone who is trying not to look at theirs. Sometimes these cases bother me emotionally as I don’t’ like being the bad guy whom people are mad at because of what they do. I become the fall guy. Yesterday after I saw the cleaned up employee I decided that it was all worth it. His wife will have a marriage with an adult not a child. They will have material things. The child will be brought up in a sane atmosphere without fear. This was all possible because his employer recognized that safety was number one and they made him accountable for his own behaviour.

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Summer Vacation

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After I got my yearly house chores done I went on vacation. The weather up here has been amazing and I know snow will be coming so that is my lazy excuse for not blogging.

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My wife has a book out on Oak Island and I went on a reading tour with her in Nova Scotia. We looked at a lot of history but the most amazing thing was Overton Stone in Yarmouth, N.S. I took a picture above and it may help solve the mystery of Oak Island and what is buried there. It shows some type of bond between the Native Indians (Mi’kmaq) and perhaps the Knights Templars. It could be that only the Mi’kmaq know what is there. It is an interesting story and I promise I will be back to addiction topics next week. I also have a book coming out myself about addiction in the workplace by October 19th on Kindle.

 

 

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