Increased social use of drugs outside the workplace remains a challenge for employers to manage.
By Cameron Drummond
GROWING drug and alcohol use in the resources sector has increased the challenges facing employers, according to a report by the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA).
A 2016 AMMA Drug and Alcohol Survey has shown that businesses were progressively more worried about the social acceptance of the use of prescription and illicit substances in the workplace.
However the survey showed that out of a total of 53 companies across the industry that responded, only 40 per cent test for synthetic cannabis, raising concerns about the ability of testing to keep up with rapidly changing substance types.
The report found that 65 per cent of respondents said they took a “zero tolerance” approach to drug and alcohol use, while 26 per cent focused instead on harm minimisation techniques.
“We will support employees who seek assistance in dealing with an alcohol and / or drug dependency [and] encourage all employees who may need help to use the company’s employee assistance program,” one respondent said.
Surprisingly, 12 per cent of respondents allowed up to a certain blood alcohol content for their workers depending on whether they were in operational or office-based roles – generally ranging between 0.00 and 0.05 BAC.
An overwhelming 96 per cent of companies surveyed said they included both employees as well as contractors in their onsite drug and alcohol testing protocols.
AMMA director of workplace relations Amanda Mansini said that while employees were effectively managing the workplace risks, increased societal use of both illicit and prescription drugs is creating challenges.
“Despite most resource employers recording low instances of positive or non-negative tests, convincing employees to make sensible lifestyle choices outside the workplace remains a significant challenge in managing the potential impact of drugs and alcohol,” Ms Mansini said.
“Employers are communicating the message but find a small portion are not taking into account the risks that using drugs outside the workplace presents to their safety and their colleagues’ safety once on site.
“It is also telling that at least 50 per cent of respondents reported that employment laws and union opposition have impacted on their ability to implement the drug and alcohol testing policy of their choice.
“The results back AMMA’s longstanding position that as the people responsible for creating a safe work environment, employers and site managers must be supported in choosing the drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures that they deem most suitable for their individual workplaces.”