Under Section 13 of the Safety Health & Welfare at Work Act, 2005 an employee shall, while at work, ensure that they are not under the influence of an intoxicant to the extent that they may endanger their own safety or the safety of others. The definition of intoxicant in the Act, defines the term “intoxicant” as including drugs or alcohol or a combination of both. It therefore includes alcohol, prescribed drugs, over the counter medication and illegal substances.
In line with legislation, every organisation should consider drawing up a policy, and include or refer to it in its safety statement. Having an intoxicant policy in place means that employee incidents involving intoxicants, even if isolated, can be dealt with properly, and the potential difficulties of an ad hoc response avoided. The policy may or may not include testing. Where testing is part of the policy, it may include with-cause testing only or alternatively, in organisations where the risk of such problems is significantly higher, random (unannounced) testing of employees may be part of the policy.
There are differing and conflicting views on the appropriateness and efficacy of testing regimes. In some cases, it is only considered relevant to safety-critical roles and, moreover, better approached from the perspective of medical fitness to work rather than specifically related to alcohol or drugs.
There are three types of testing that can arise
- pre-employment testing
- random testing
- with-cause testing
An intoxicants policy would normally:
- define the objective of the policy
- clearly define what constitutes a serious breach under the policy
- describe how decisions will be reached in suspected cases of intoxicants use, if testing is not utilised
- indicate the disciplinary action that will be taken
- outline the assistance for addiction
- apply to everyone within the organisation
- define searching policy and limitations (if applicable)
- outline the company approach to reporting of possession of illicit drugs and disciplinary action.
Ibec has produced further guidance on developing an intoxicants policy and testing for intoxicants in the workplace which is available to members below. In addition the HSA has produced a set of FAQ's relating to Intoxicants in the Workplace.
Drug & alcohol testing in the workplace
04/05/2017 - When published in 2005, the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act made provision to oblige certain employees, "as may be prescribed" by regulations, to submit to an appropriate and reasonable test for intoxicants. The Health and Safety Authority having consulted with the social partners and other interest groups have decided that they do not intend for the foreseeable future to publish regulations to enforce this provision in the Act. Currently the testing requirement only affects safety critical situations on a sector basis and is prescribed for in other legislation. If your organisation conducts drugs and alcohol tests, it is important that it has a policy in place. This policy should be agreed by all parties involved.
Guideline on Intoxicants in the Workplace
09/06/2016 - This guideline aims to provide employers with information and guidance on how to address the misuse of intoxicants (more commonly referred to as alcohol and drugs). Of necessity, this is a general guide and will serve as a reference document. Member organisations requiring more information should contact their Ibec executive for advice.This guideline includes a sample intoxicant/alcohol and drug policy that may be adapted by the employer to suit their particular circumstances.The development of an alcohol and drug policy by an employer should be undertaken in co-operation with the employees.