[Sinn Fein]

7th May 2003

Crowe Opposes Random Drug Tests for Rail Workers

Sinn Fein Spokesperson for Transport Sean Crowe speaking on the Railway Safety Bill at Committee Stage in Leinster House this morning supported an amendment which would delete elements of the legislation that provide for random drug and alcohol testing of rail workers.

The Dublin South-West TD said: In the last 30 years no railways accident has involved drugs or alcohol. While I do not object to people having tests taken if they are suspected of being under the influence or as part of an investigation into an accident, the use of random drug testing is something I object to.

Random drug testing removes the assumption of innocent until proven guilty as the person subjected to the test must prove their innocence by providing a clear sample.

They can also disclose information of a personal medical nature. It can tell an employer if an employee is on medication for a heart conditions or epilepsy or other illnesses. It can also reveal if an employee is pregnant or not, even if she might be unaware of it. These are genuine and legitimate privacy concerns which I do not believe the legislation before us has taken sufficient account of.

The tests themselves, some of dubious accuracy, also cause problems. Some-one could use drugs days, even weeks before the test and still give a positive result whereas some-one could use cocaine on the way to work and give a negative result as the drug will not have been metabolised.

I do not believe there is a problem with drug or alcohol abuse in the railway industry and I would suggest there are far greater problems in the area of fatigue and drivers being forced to work long hours.ENDS

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