2 min read

5 questions you must ask before creating a drug and alcohol policy

Do you have a drug and alcohol policy in place?

If you do, do you know that it is effective?

When it comes to drug and alcohol testing, the first question many employers ask is what the best methods of testing are?

But before making that decision, you first need to examine what problem with drugs and alcohol you are trying to solve.

This will enable you to determine which testing process you should choose.

To ensure your drug and alcohol policy is successful, you should answer these 5 key questions:

1. What is the evidence of risk in your workplace?

Is there any incident data or anecdotal evidence that supports that you do have a problem? (In Australian workplaces, the most common drugs affecting workers are cannabis, methamphetamine and benzodiazepines.)

2. What is your consultation process with workers prior to commencing the policy and process?

The introduction of a drug and alcohol policy is a significant change under most modern awards requiring consultation.

Consultation requires the clear identification of the change, how it affects employees, and what will be the impact of the change.

The consultation does not require employees to consent, but it does require them to be listened to and to have their input carefully considered.

3. What is the purpose of the policy?

Is it just to stop employees who have recently taken drugs or are intoxicated from alcohol from working?

Is it to look at the health impact of drug and alcohol use on employees and to ensure that the different layers of impact are eradicated?

For example, chronic drug-users can suffer from behavioural and cognitive effects that are ongoing, even if they have not recently ingested or otherwise used drugs.

Cannabis, methamphetamine and benzodiazepines have a ‘hangover’ effect that impairs judgment and, hence, the capacity to work safely.

The purpose of your policy should explain why you are testing, in what circumstances you are testing, and how you are testing. For example, if your problem is binge cocaine use in professional services businesses, random testing would be used as a deterrent and the method would be oral swabs as it captures recent use.

4. Is there an education program?

Do you educate workers about the risks of drug and alcohol use along with a rehabilitative goal for those who admit to having a problem?

The educative and rehabilitative elements are essential if you need the approval of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) should unions dispute the policy.

5. Is the testing method fair?

Is the testing method in accordance with a known standard that ensures fairness and predictability of testing?

The test you adopt must consider the efficacy of testing – how reliable it is and whether there is a confirmatory laboratory test if a worker tests positive on-site.

Importantly, drug and alcohol testing must address a known risk, the regime must require testing on occasions that best prevent that risk arising, and the method of testing must be the best way of testing for that risk.

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