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What are your employees' rights for alcohol or drug testing?

by , 16 May 2013
Every employer has a duty to stop people from entering or remaining at work if they're under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs (General Safety Regulation 2A, Occupational Health and Safety Act).

Are your employees showing up intoxicated to work? Many jobs require employees to have quick reflexes and to be alert and accurate. Impairment of these abilities can cause serious accidents and interfere with the accuracy and efficiency of work.

One way to ensure your employees aren't intoxicated is to implement random drug/alcohol testing.


I know you're obliged to organise periodical training of employees, BUT

Aren't you tired of having to arrange and prepare the sessions, especially since you don't always have a ready-to-use format?

Are you always aware of what you're legally required to include when it comes to training?

Now, you can have tailor-made professional training for all your employees without the exorbitant costs! 


Your employees' rights for drug/alcohol testing

Right #1: You can decide to test employees for drugs but you'll need your employee's consent first for the drug test. Normally, the employee will give you permission for the drug test if you have grounds for conducting the drug test under a full contractual Occupational Health and Safety Policy (OHSA). The Occupational Health and Safety Policy (OHSA) should be set out in the contract of employment and should also be provided in the company handbook.

Right #2: Limit drug and alcohol testing to only those employees that appear to need it. If you want to carry out random  drug and alcohol tests on these employees, they MUST be random. It's potentially discriminatory to single out particular employees for testing unless you can justify it by the nature of their jobs.

Right #3: Searching employees is a sensitive matter. To cover yourself, implement a written policy on this. Searches must respect privacy (e.g. be carried out by a member of the same gender) and take place with a witness present.

Right #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 (OHSA), the employee may face disciplinary action.

Are there penalties for being under the influence of drugs at the workplace?

If anyone thinks an employee is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they have a duty to prevent that person from entering or staying in the workplace.

Train all 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 overall 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 will be in contravention of General Safety Regulation 2A(3) and Section 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). They could end up with a R50 000 penalty, 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 on Drug testing in your Health and Safety Advisor to find out how you can create a drug-free workplace.

Until next time,

Stay safe!

Kerusha Narothan
Managing Editor: Health and Safety Advisor 

P.S. Get your sample drug-free workplace policy when you sign up to the Health and Safety Advisor

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