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Four employee rights on drug testing at the workplace

by , 05 March 2013
No business, regardless of size or location, is immune to the countless problems drug abuse can cause. Some costs are obvious, such as increased absenteeism, accidents and errors. Others are less obvious, but equally as harmful, such as low morale and high rates of illness.

Every employer has a duty to stop people from entering or remaining at work if they appear to be under the influence alcohol or drugs (General Safety Regulation 2A of OHSA).

You can create a drug and alcohol testing policy to protect your business. But, make sure you don't infringe on these four employee rights!

Make sure you don't infringe on these 4 employee rights
  1. You can test employees for drugs but you'll need your employee's consent first. Normally, the employee will give you permission if you have grounds for conducting the test under a full contractual Occupational Health and Safety Policy. The policy should be set out in the contract of employment and should also be provided in the company handbook.
  2. Limit testing to only those employees that appear to need it. If you want to carry out random tests on these employees, they MUST be random. It's potentially discriminatory to single out particular employees for testing unless it's justified by the nature of their jobs.
  3. Searching employees is a sensitive matter. You'd best cover yourself by implementing a written policy on this. Searches should respect privacy (e.g. be carried out by a member of the same sex) and take place with a witness present.
  4. You can't force your employee to take a drug test, but if they refuse when you have good grounds for doing so under a proper Occupational Health and Safety Policy, the employee may face disciplinary action.
Penalties for being under the influence of drugs at the workplace
 
If anyone believes that someone is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at work, they have a duty to prevent that person from entering or remaining in the workplace.
 
Train your employees on the provisions of Section 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and keep it on file. By training everyone in their duties, you earn the right to enforce these duties!
 
Explain to your employees that by working while intoxicated, they constitute a threat to themselves and those around them. They have a duty to inform you of any behaviour affecting health and safety in the workplace.
 
If they don't comply, they'll be in contravention of General Safety Regulation 2A (3) and
 
Section 14 and could end up with a R50 000 fine, two years in jail, or both.
 
Employees must also tell you if they're unable to perform their duties safely because of intoxication,
 
medication or drugs.
 
Check out chapter D01 for more on drug testing in your Health and Safety Advisor .
 
Until next time,
 
Stay safe.
 
Managing Editor: Health and Safety Advisor
 
P.S. Create a drug-free workplace in just 5 steps. We show you how in chapter D01 on Drug testing in your Health and Safety Advisor .


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