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Pol Pushes Drug, Alcohol Testing for All Mass. Public Safety Workers

BOSTON — The battle over firefighter drug testing is headed to Beacon Hill after a lawmaker filed a bill to require drug and alcohol screening for all public safety workers in Massachusetts.

The proposal, filed by Rep. Christopher Donelan (D-Orange), requests that “public safety employees and emergency medical technicians employed by the commonwealth and its political subdivisons be required to submit to drug and alcohol testing.” The testing would have to comply with standards set by the state Executive Office of Public Safety.

Robert McCarthy, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, blasted the proposal, saying: ”We don’t oppose (drug testing). But it should be negotiated at the bargaining table. It shouldn’t be imposed.”

He added that he was ‘shocked” a lawmaker would file sweeping legislation without consulting the union, which represents 200 municipal fire departments statewide.

Donelan could not be reached for comment last night.

The bill comes in the wake of the deaths of Boston firefighters Paul Cahill and Warren Payne, who died battling an August blaze in West Roxbury. Sources briefed on the pair’s autopsy reports have told the Herald that Cahill’s blood alcohol level was triple the legal limit and that Payne had traces of cocaine in his system.

A Boston Fire Department probe of the fire found no evidence the men were impaired, but the investigation did not include a review of the toxicology results.

Asked about Donelan’s proposal, Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s spokeswoman Dot Joyce said: “We continue to push for drug and alcohol testing in our contract discussions with the firefighters union. All of our other public safety agencies already have random drug and alcohol testing.”