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Can we incorporate a drug and alcohol testing component in a fitness for duty assessment?

Q: We are a contract firm and have a worker who is working as an apprentice at another employer’s worksite. He is working in a high-risk area and has been identified as possibly being under the influence of drugs or alcohol a number of times.

We are currently developing a fitness for work policy which will cover aspects of being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs of impairment.

However, as we do not currently have a drug and alcohol policy in place, it has been difficult to make the worker undertake a test when he has denied these allegations. Can we incorporate a drug and alcohol testing component in a fitness for duty assessment?

The worker is currently on leave due to being unfit for work, but has not admitted to any drug or alcohol usage.

A: As the worker is working at another employer’s worksite, you may be able to rely on any drug and alcohol policy that the other employer has in place to require the worker to comply with the policy and undertake tests for drugs and alcohol.

However, this will depend on who the host employer’s policies apply to and whether they cover workers contracted to work at their site. In the absence of any such policy, it would be difficult to require the worker to undertake a drug and alcohol test.

You may, however, request that they provide a doctor’s certificate confirming they are fit to return to work. The worker should also be advised that the company has zero tolerance of drug and alcohol use at the workplace, particularly as it is in a high-risk area.

As you have outlined, a drug and alcohol test may be included in a fitness for work policy to apply to all workers going forward.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Alcohol and other drugs for current advice.

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