Drugs and alcohol
11 min read
Implementing a safe and drug-free workplace is essential in the dairy farming community. Both employees and employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe work environment. A comprehensive drugs and alcohol policy should be developed, outlining expectations, procedures, and support services. Drug testing can be conducted in various scenarios, and the results may be negative, non-negative, or confirmed positive, leading to appropriate actions. Employers should focus on good employment practices during recruitment and orientation. If you suspect someone is under the influence, follow specific steps, and take necessary precautions regarding drugs in accommodation. Seek assistance from reputable testing companies that comply with standards.
Both employees and employers have an obligation to ensure a safe work environment. Implementing a safe and drug free workplace needs to be carefully managed.
Health and safety is a shared commitment. It is the responsibility of all those in the workplace to identify concerns about an individual’s immediate risk, the ability of an individual to perform their job and operate safely in the workplace. If someone is under the influence of drugs (including the misuse of some prescription drugs and alcohol) in the workplace, their performance is likely to drop and they could pose a significant safety risk to themselves, others, animals and to your business.
Both employees and employers have an obligation to ensure a safe work environment. Implementing a safe and drug free workplace needs to be carefully managed:
Develop a Workplace Drugs Policy and Protocol with detail on how you intend to go about identifying and drug testing employees.
Employee drug testing must be completed under strict conditions and comply with certain standards. We strongly advise seeking help from an expert in this area.
Employment agreements must include a clause specific to drug testing.
Implementing new policies must be done in consultation with employees.
We advise that you seek specialist advice for your situation and provide appropriate education/training for those who will be responsible for managing any drug testing in the workplace.
Drugs are chemicals or substances that impact our physical or mental state when introduced to the body. This includes alcohol, drugs, and at times prescription medication.
For a comprehensive understanding of drugs that are common in workplaces, visit the Drug Foundation website.
A drugs and alcohol policy sets out what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to go about it. It outlines everyone’s role in this and what would happen if people were alleged to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work. The policy must be developed carefully, so it applies fairly and equally across the organisation.
New employees should be made aware of the policy, and a signed copy should be kept showing they have read and understood it. For existing employees the policy should be implemented in consultation with them.
We encourage you to seek expert advice when writing and implementing a drugs and alcohol policy.
A policy could detail:
An employer must balance the necessity of protecting the safety of employees with what can be viewed as an unreasonable intrusion into the privacy of employees.
Talk to your drug testing provider and confirm their drug tests are aligned with NZ and Australian standards and can stand up to legal requirements - so in a worst-case scenario, you can rely on that information in court.
Presently, the standard for drug testing is the AS/NZS 4308:2008 Australian/New Zealand standard for Procedures for the collection, detection and quantification of drugs of abuse in urine. Many employers refer to the legal requirements for driving under the influence of alcohol as a guide with regard to deeming there to be misuse of alcohol at work. The test for alcohol will usually be carried out using a breath alcohol testing device which complies with the AS 3547-1997 standard for the measurement of alcohol.
Policies should allow for changes to drug testing standards, as improvements in internationally recognised standards and procedures are introduced.
In all cases make sure you have aligned your testing methods and procedures with your drugs and alcohol policy and the relevant clauses in employment agreements.
Drug tests can be undertaken in different scenarios:
The results of drug tests are initially either negative or non-negative:
Test results may also be considered invalid, such as where tests show an abnormal specimen being substituted or tampered with. This will ordinarily require a second sample or test.
In some instances, offering additional support and/or rehabilitation may help an employee overcome drug or alcohol issues for themselves or others (e.g. family members). There is no legal requirement for an employee to take up such offers.
When a positive drug test has been returned, if the employee commits to a rehabilitation programme, the expectations of the parties should be carefully documented, with the help of an advisor.
Support may include:
The aim should be to have the employee return to full and normal work as quickly as possible, consistent with the needs of the treatment and rehabilitation programme. If the employee remains at work while receiving treatment , expectations for the employee’s work performance and behaviour should be fully stated and understood by all parties. The consequences of not meeting those standards should also be very clear.
The best way to minimise the risk of employees with drug or alcohol issues affecting your business is to have a strong health and safety culture, together with robust employment practices in place.
In job advertising material, include your approach to drugs and alcohol so prospective employees can self-select to apply for positions that align with their values.
Interviews give an opportunity for employers to explain their stance on drugs and alcohol in the workplace and to check with prospective employees if this will be an issue. Remember that any questions asked, cannot contravene the Human Rights Act.
Information disclosure forms
Use information disclosure forms as they give you written confirmation of some of the employees details and usually include a statement about them being truthful and honest in the information they have put forward during the recruitment process.
Complete thorough reference checking. If accommodation may be supplied, consider asking for a landlord reference.
Criminal conviction check
You may choose to complete a criminal conviction check, more information on this can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.
Pre-employment drug tests
Complete pre-employment drug tests. Please note that the collection and retention of personal health information about employees must be:
Include some safeguards in the employment agreement including:
Talk through tenancy expectations and in particular explain that the prospective employee is liable for any damage visitors to the accommodation may cause. For example if a friend smoked P in their house, they could be liable for damages.
Landlords must provide a clean property. At the start of a new tenancy agreement ensure you include a clause about testing the house. We recommend testing the house between tenants.
Discuss the relevant policies and procedures, including your workplace drug and alcohol policy and who to talk to if they suspect that someone else may be under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The manufacturing of drugs (particularly ‘P’) and use of it in accommodation provided by the employer can have long lasting effects. Clean-ups are costly and there is potential for severe health problems for current and future residents living in a contaminated house. Landlords must provide 'a reasonable state of cleanliness.’
A landlord can:
Every situation is different. Consider any action taken in the following two areas:
Look for companies that have IANZ (International Accreditation of NZ) accreditation or that state they test to AS/NZS 4308:2008 Australian/New Zealand standard.
Research your local area for providers of workplace alcohol and drug testing services. You need to have confidence that the service offered meets your expectations regarding quality and availability. Your policy can then be introduced and/or implemented in a manner consistent with that provider’s usual process.
If you are a Federated Farmers member, a drugs and alcohol policy is available. Please ensure that it aligns with your employment agreements and other employment policies.