Drugs and Alcohol

 

Drugs and Alcohol

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, Employers have a level of responsibility to ensure that workplace risks are well managed and this includes Employee’s working under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Culture

First up, Employers must ensure that the workplace culture does not accept attending work under the influence. This could include a set of workplace rules, introducing a wellness programme or an educative training session about how to detect people under the influence.

 

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Drug testing can be used in the workplace in several ways to mitigate health and safety risks associated with impairment, including:

 

1. Pre-employment Testing

An offer of employment can be made conditional on producing a negative test. Essentially, if the test is positive, the offer of employment can be withdrawn – even if the Employee has already started work. However, the way this is done is important and there is a process involved.

 

2. Random Drug Testing

 Depending on the industry and the work, it may be appropriate for a workplace to use random drug and/or alcohol testing. An example of this is a safety-sensitive area whereby use of drugs and/or alcohol is deemed critically unsafe (for example, as an airline pilot). There are a number of considerations Employers must go through prior to implementing or utilising a random testing policy.

 

3. Post-Incident Testing

Testing can occur when an Employer believes that an accident, incident or near miss may have been related to an Employee’s impairment through drugs and/or alcohol or to rule this out as a cause of the incident. Again, there are several considerations before an Employer can test post-incident.

 

4. Reasonable Cause

Should an Employer have ‘reasonable cause’ to suspect an employee is under the influence then they may be able to require an Employee to carry out a test, provided they have good reason and there is a specific provision in the company drug and alcohol policy.

 

Drug and Alcohol Policy

The company drug and alcohol policy is crucial in relation to all of the above situations, as are the Employee’s contractual provisions. Also important is the wording in the employment agreement, the wording in the policy and the steps in any prescribed processes.

In situations where an Employee has also been suspended pending an investigation as part of a disciplinary process, then these situations can become complex and Employers are best to seek advice on how best to avoid risk and liability.

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