Ensuring Metrolinx staff are always fit for duty


Across Ontario and beyond, businesses function daily with a well-oiled machinery that becomes routine and trusted. The people and processes are tried and tested over the repetition of time. But what happens when there’s a question whether one of those employees is, on one particular day, not fit to safely do their job?

At Metrolinx, we run one of the most complex and active mass public transit systems in the nation. Our GO Transit trains and buses regularly move a number of customers that would equal a small city. Our UP Express has become a trusted and quick route between Toronto’s Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto’s Union Station, while our many light-rail transit construction projects across the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region of Ontario are carving out important transportation lines for tomorrow. Then there’s our PRESTO system that has become an electronic fare-payment system counted on across transit services in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, as well as Ottawa.

Those duties amount to a lot of heavy lifting by a lot of talented individuals on behalf of a lot of Ontario customers. And each employee is expected – like the buses and trains we run daily – to operate at a world-class and safe level.

Metrolinx is doing industry-leading work in designing policies that keep the safety bar high.

Metrolinx first introduced a “Fit for Duty” policy in 2018. Earlier this year, we updated the policy to give staff, the public, and the customers we serve confidence in our ability to do our jobs at peak levels.

Part of the update to the policy addresses the legalization of cannabis in Canada. Metrolinx employees who work in  “safety-sensitive” positions are now not permitted to use cannabis on or off duty. Jobs that are considered “safety-sensitive” include positions that are responsible for overseeing the welfare of others and positions in work environments where lapses in judgment, coordination or attention could cost life or limb.

The policy says that all Metrolinx employees must safely and acceptably perform duties without limitations resulting from, but not limited to, alcohol, cannabis, recreational drugs, and prescribed medications, as well as the misuse or failure to take medications as directed. There’s also a provision that explains extreme fatigue and its impact on fitness for duty.

As a provider of public mass transit, our main priority is safety for all. We have to take all reasonable precautions available to us in order to identify, reduce and eliminate safety risks, whether it’s from extreme fatigue or cannabis use.

Employees who are unfit for duty create safety risks and, in particular, increase the risk of incidents. Accidents on the job may result in injuries or fatalities. There is also the potential for property damage, whether it is our own or that of third parties. A single accident may have consequences that are catastrophic.

The overriding fit-for-duty standard is that all employees are expected to attend work fit for duty, free from the negative effects of substances, including alcohol, recreational cannabis and illegal drugs.

Our goals and our policy were developed with help from fit-for-duty experts in correlation with current industry best practices.

Our standards were also developed having regard to our legal obligations to ensure health and safety in our workplace and our operations. This includes our obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code of Canada, as well as consideration of potential civil liabilities.

We also wanted to develop standards that will help us achieve greater heights of success in the performance of our employees and our operations so that ultimately we can better serve our customers and communities. Our standards are therefore intended to promote a workforce that is safe, healthy, engaged and productive.

We believe these factors are important to achieving excellence in the delivery of services to our customers and communities.

The 2019 update to our fit-for-duty requirements ensures our customers only get us at our very best.

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