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State to Require Drug Free Construction

June 5, 2009

Charleston, WV – West Virginia building trades unions are applauding a new state law mandating drug and alcohol testing for workers in sensitive positions on larger public construction projects. The new rule follows a successful voluntary drug and alcohol testing program instituted for nearly twenty years between contractors and the trades.

Nationwide, 13 percent of construction workers test positive for substances, according to Jim Cerra, executive director of the Kanawha Valley Builders Association. But, in West Virginia, he adds, the rate is just two to three percent, which has translated directly to fewer accidents.

"Our safety rates are very good, and drugs are a big part of that. We do everything possible to ensure that the workers our contractors employ go to work and come home safe at night."

State lawmakers at the last legislative session studied the results of the on-going voluntary testing program and used it as a model for their new law regarding public projects. The unions and the employees recognize the need for proactive safety, says Carra, and the need for a cooperative approach.

"It’s a joint labor-management program. We work closely with the unions, and we normally catch the positives. When we do, we give them an opportunity to come back and be rehabilitated."

The new law requires drug testing only on public projects totaling more than $100,000 in size. Civil libertarians have criticized drug testing as an invasion of privacy, but Cerra says building sites are dangerous enough even when everyone has a clear head.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV