Is the Boston Fire Department Ignoring Drug Test Results?

A comprehensive drug test is frequently a standard part of employment along with a background check. However, once on the job, employees, particularly in life-saving occupations, frequently are subject to random and on-the-spot screenings.

This is the case in Boston, where two firefighters died on the job in 2007. Later it was found one had cocaine in his system and the other was drunk. A random drug screening program began in 2010, and three years later, another firefighter was arrested after buying heroin on the job.

While that firefighter since resigned after allegations surfaced, local television station Fox 25 looked into the Boston Fire Department’s efforts, finding, in the process, that a fair amount continue to test positive. The amount continues to increase, going from six positive out of 1,500 in the first screening to 13 in 1,200 out of the latest random drug test.

While many find these findings alarming, Boston’s Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser says less than one percent of the total are actually positive. He responded: “So I think it’s a good news story that demonstrates to the public we don’t have a large number of abuse of alcohol or drugs in this department.”

When it comes to the firefighters testing positive, the BFD has strict measures in place. First-time positive testers are suspended without pay for 30 days and, during that time, are required to register for an employee assistance program and go through additional drug testing for the next three years. However, those who continue to test positive after this point are either fired or are expected to resign.

Do you think the BFD’s stance is too lax, or is having less than one percent of your total workforce drunk or on drugs more than inconsequential, especially when they’re required to respond effectively to a disaster?