Drug & Alcohol monitoring in the workplace

If you are considering implementing a Drug & Alcohol policy in your workplace, there are some considerations that should be worked through prior to the introduction of the policy. Though there is case law available that has supported employer’s decision to terminate a worker, there are as many cases where the worker has overturned this decision due to poor design and implementation of the policy.
However, before getting to a court of law to determine if a termination was just, employers should ensure that their company’s drug and alcohol policies are developed through a consultative approach to assist in defining all the issues and how the process will evolve should a breach be identified.
The Policy should
– clearly define in simple terms what is unacceptable behaviour, including any forms of disciplinary behaviour such as dismissal.
– be part of a structured communication process that ensures a consistent message is given to all workers including new workers, contractors and visitors to site.
– consider precautions to be implemented that consider False Positives and even the possibility of faulty measuring equipment used as part of the initial testing. These units are becoming more precise however they are only indicators of a Non Negative and that a Positive result is only provided from the NATA testing agency. Management reacting too early; victimising or even seen to be punishing a worker at this early stage should be cautioned.
In short when implementing any workplace policy, employers need to ensure the policy is clear, widely and consistently disseminated in an easily to understand format to assist in avoiding any confusion or a HR issue.

Incident Notification – a near miss carries the same weight as an injury!

Incident notifications to the Regulator are required for a number of notifiable situations being the death of a person, a serious injury or illness of a person; or a dangerous incident. Dangerous incidents are prescribed events that expose a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person’s health or safety. No actual injury need occur. These near miss situations must be reported.

Under the new Work Health and Safety Act, it is no longer necessary for a person to be killed to receive exposure to the maximum penalty available.  A Category 1 offence (criminal offence with the maximum penalties) occurs when a duty holder, without reasonable excuse, engages in conduct that recklessly exposes a person to a risk of death or serious injury or illness. Hence, no injury has to have occurred!!

If you use methylated spirits to clean your copier, does this need to be included in your Hazardous Chemicals Register?

Chemicals which are generally for domestic use and considered safe in the home may present greater risks in the workplace depending on the manner and quantities in which they are used. This is particularly relevant, for example, where domestic cleaning chemicals are purchased from a supermarket and used in a workplace environment. You should always follow label directions. However, if you are using a domestic chemical in a manner different to normal household use, you should also obtain the SDS in order to determine the level of risks to workers and the appropriate controls. The SDS should contain more detailed information on hazards and risks, for example on incompatibilities with other chemicals and risks from use in enclosed areas.

Hence, if the chemical is a domestic chemical used for a domestic purpose i.e. dish washer chemical, then an SDS is not required and it does not need to be included in the register. For the methylated spirits however, it’s use is commercial and therefore an SDS would be required and it needs to be included in the Register. Refer WHS Regulations s344 (4).

You can no longer rely on the competency of equipment hire companies… you share the responsibility of failure!

The supplier of the plant has a duty to ensure the plant is maintained to the manufacturer’s specification, and provide adequate information about the plants operation i.e. the manufacturer’s handbook.

Hiring plant transfers the duty for the plant to the hirer. The need, suitability and performance requirements of the plant are to be assessed prior to the plant being provided for the workers to use. Workers must also be trained or assessed as competent to operate the plant by the employer before being allowed to operate it. At this time any hazard identified must be reduced to a reasonably practical level.

What constitutes ‘High Risk Work’?

A number of activities that generally relate to construction work have been listed as being high risk work. They are deemed high risk as the risk associated with the safe use and handling operation of the equipment that they relate to, impacts on many workers in workplaces. The high Risk activities include:

  • the erection of scaffolding,
  • dogging and rigging work,
  • crane and hoist operation,
  • reach stackers,
  • forklift operation, and
  • pressure equipment operation .

A person or persons carrying out this work must be appropriately assessed and licensed by the Regulator. The specific list can be found in the WHS Regulation Schedule 3 with the regulations Part 4.5 offering the specific application of the licences.