Views & Opinions

Federal government cracks down on drugs and alcohol on worksites

21 October 2015


Federal government cracks down on drugs and alcohol on worksites

As of Friday last week, changes to the Building Code 2013 (the “Building Code”) by the Minister for Employment now require building contractor’s or building industry participant’s work health safety and rehabilitation (WHS&R) management system to demonstrate how drug and alcohol issues in the workplace will be managed in order to ensure that no person performing building work on site does so under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

So what does this mean for certain contractors and subcontractors required to comply with the Building Code? 

In addition to the drug and alcohol issues being addressed by WHS&R management systems, certain building industry participants will also be required to implement a fitness for work policy to manage drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Contractors affected by these changes are those engaged in building work where the Commonwealth’s contribution to the project is at least $5 million (where the total project is worth less than $10 million) or any project where the Commonwealth’s contribution is at least $10 million regardless of the size of the project.

It is the responsibility of the principal contractor to demonstrate a management plan that addresses how those on site (including employees of the principal contractor, subcontractors and their employees and others) will be required to comply with a fitness for work policy with respect of drugs and alcohol.

The amendment to the Building Code requires regular and periodic testing for alcohol and drugs to be conducted at least once a month per site and must capture:

  • 10% of the workers per month for sites with less than 30 workers;
  • a minimum of 5 workers per month for sites with between 30 and 100 workers; and
  • a minimum of 10 workers per month for sites with over 100 workers.

Interestingly, the management plan must address how workers who attend for work affected by drugs and alcohol will be counselled and assisted, apart from any disciplinary action that might be applied.

What does this mean for your business?

While all building industry participants must review their existing WHS&R management systems and some must also develop a fitness for work drug and alcohol policy to ensure continual compliance with the Building Code, all employers should consider reviewing their WHS management system and drug and alcohol policy as part of providing a safe workplace and managing risk in the business.

Posted in Legal Advice & Consulting.
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