I’m Sorry, Questions About Unconscious Urine Collection Exist in My Mind

13 Jun, 2012 Bob Wilson


You know there is going to be a problem when I feel compelled to apologize for a post directly in the title of it. It is a touchy subject, as someone died as a result of the accident I discuss. I do not take that death lightly. Still, I have questions about the allegations surrounding that death, and frankly, they must be asked. I cannot contain them, or myself, for that matter.

A story yesterday caught my eye – a tragic tale of a worker who fell and died on the job in Texas, and whose widow is now suing his employer for $15 million.

Her claim? She says the company, Texas Industries, let him lay unconscious for two hours before calling an ambulance.  Oh, and she also claims they unzipped the man's pants and took a urine sample for a drug test during that time.

The company claims no drug test took place. I am inclined to believe them.

I understand that this is a terrible loss, and I certainly feel for her, but I am trying to figure out exactly how conducting a urine based drug test on an unconscious man would have worked.

First, we have to assume, since no medical team had been summoned, that it was a co-worker or manager at the construction firm where the man was employed who had to undertake this responsibility. I am trying to be delicate here, but the fact is that someone presumably had to, shall we say, "remove him" from his unzipped pants, and then somehow coax the unconscious man into urinating into a cup. I mean, it's not like they were milking a cow. I would imagine that would lead to an entirely different type of "collection".

You couldn't pay me enough to do that, and I imagine there wasn't a burly construction guy within a thousand miles who would undertake that task. This was, after all Texas, where men are men and so are the women. The fact that “everything is big in Texas”, likely only compounded this problem.

I am no expert on drug tests, but it would seem to me that the next challenge would be a serious chain of custody issue. It's unlikely the crew had a sealed, sterile urine cup on hand and could have followed all the proper protocols associated with conducting a valid drug test. No, I would think it is far more likely that "Foreman Joe" just won't want his thermos back after this little episode.

The company, as I indicated earlier, says that no drug test was conducted, and that medical assistance was summoned “promptly”. 

OSHA, which investigated the accident and interviewed co-workers, has declined to pursue charges against the company. The widow is suing Texas Industries for inadequate training, not providing proper equipment, and wrongful death. The lawsuit seeks $5 million for damages prior to death, $5 million for wrongful death, and $5 million in punitive damages.

Whether this actually occurred as the wife alleges is not for me to decide. That will be decided by the courts. Someone, meanwhile, should probably keep an eye on Foreman Joe. If he shows up with a new thermos, that could change everything.


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