Calls for Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Construction Industry

Suzannah Robin, alcohol and drug safety expert at AlcoDigital, says implementing testing policies and procedures will help to improve workplace safety.

Suzannah explains that, for reasons that aren’t fully understood, the construction industry is at ‘higher risk’ of drug use, and more than a third of construction workers say they have witnessed a colleague being at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to a survey carried out on employees from a range of sectors, nearly a third admitted to using drugs at work, with some disclosing they are ‘under the influence’ every working day. Many of those admitting to taking drugs were using cannabis or other illegal narcotics.

Despite the increased use of screening tests, around 65% of workers say they have never been tested, while a quarter said they had been tired at work because of the effects of drugs or alcohol.

The construction industry has seen 38 fatalities in the past year, according to provisional figures issued by the Health and Safety Executive, with falls from a height being the most common cause of death.

There are 58,000 non-fatal incidents each year in the construction industry and 82,000 work-related ill-health cases. Of these ill-health cases, 62% were caused by musculoskeletal disorders and 25% were caused by stress, depression and anxiety. This is significant as these conditions have been linked with the use of drugs and alcohol. While there is no data available to establish if any of these incidents were related to drugs or alcohol, it seems likely that they may have played a part.

Drug and alcohol testing are legislated in certain sectors, but while most larger companies now have a policy in place to deal with drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace, the construction industry is not legally required to enforce testing.

Suzannah Robin comments, “Employers do have a duty of care to maintain a safe working environment under the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act. If methods for detecting misuse are not implemented and an accident occurs, employers could face hefty fines or even be prosecuted. In the high-risk construction industry, it’s therefore vital that a robust policy is introduced.”

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