By: Natasha Hawker
A survey released today makes for alarming reading, especially if you happen to be a blue collar small business owner with employees under your ‘duty of care’. To clarify what ‘duty of care’ means – you as a business owner, are responsible for the workplace health and safety of your employees as well as contractors, volunteers and visitors to your place of work.
Professor Jan Copeland who was responsible for the survey said they wanted to “… get an indication of how many people use cannabis before or during work, despite thinking it’s unsafe to do so. We’re hoping to send the message that workplace education about the effects of drugs on skills and safety is paramount to building safe work environments.”
If you do not take Workplace Health & Safety (WH&S) seriously, it can leave you open to claims under WH&S legislation, breach of contract (implied Duty of Care) and negligence claims – or worse still a seriously injured worker or member of the public.
The survey found that one in five employees are under the influence of drugs in the workplace – typically marijuana. Marijuana can cause employees to show signs of:
1. affected perception including sounds, colour and other sensations
2. reduced co-ordination and balance
4. altered vision
Now if we combined the above effects with operating machinery, it could potentially be a recipe for disaster – not only for your equipment or productivity but, most importantly, for the individual, your non drug-affected employees and even the public.
How can you protect yourself, your team, your reputation and your business?
- Legislation – understand your obligations as a business owner under the Workplace Health & Safety legislation in your State
- Policy – have a current policy (regularly circulated and reviewed) stating that being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs in the workplace will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination
- Education – you have a legal obligation to educate your employees about workplace safety including the serious effects of drug & alcohol use at work
- Testing – you have included within policy the right to test for drugs & alcohol randomly or when an individual is under suspicion of use and influence
For all policies you need to ensure that you keep them up to date, any changes are effectively communicated and you have employees sign stating that they have understood and agree to abide by the policy.
Have you ever had an employee under the influence at work? What happened? What did you do about it?
Natasha Hawker owns Employee Matters Pty Ltd that assists small to medium businesses with their employee issues to make them more efficient and profitable. Their offering includes Recruitment, Training, Policy and Exit Management – find them at www.employeematters.com.au