Toronto Transit Commission commenced its new random drug testing policy on Monday and two of the first employees tested were positive for impairment.
Neither employee was a driver and both have been suspended with pay.
The first—literally the first person to be tested—blew a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.04 during a breathalyzer test, according to the TTC. (In Ontario, driving with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08 is a criminal offence.)
A second employee also tested positive for impairment, though the TTC has not yet released details on that incident.
"The fact that the first person in the first test tested positive of course is incredibly disappointing," TTC spokesman Brad Ross told VICE. He said a suspension with pay is the first step in the process as the TTC awaits drug test results.
Although the employees weren't drivers, Ross said the organization has identified 1,400 positions that are considered "safety sensitive," meaning people working those jobs shouldn't be impaired. Those jobs, including everything from executives to janitors, account for 10,000 employees, Ross noted.
He said drugs being tested for include cannabis, cocaine, opioids, and prescription drugs—"any narcotic that could impair somebody's ability to perform at job safety."
Ross said the TTC first brought forward drug and alcohol testing policies in 2010, three years after a subway worker was killed overnight and was found to have marijuana in his system. At that time, he said a couple types of testing policies were put in place, but not random testing. He said the issue was revisited following a 2011 bus crash in which a female passenger was killed.
"We know we have a problem and that's why we want this program and have this program in place. We need this to be a deterrent."
But he noted the "vast majority" of TTC employees show up to work sober.
The TTC workers' union is currently fighting random drug testing.
Speaking to the Toronto Star about the first fail, Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer for the TTC workers' union, said he believes the incident is a "one-off" and that the problem is not systemic.
Ross said the plan is to randomly test around 50 employees per week.
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