Cocaine & Construction in Ireland

According to a UN report, the Irish are joint fourth highest consumers of cocaine globally

(Source: Irish Times article )

Therefore, it is reasonable to deduct that there is a problem in the construction industry. Construction is a high-risk industry with the use of heavy machinery, working at heights etc. Alcohol and other drugs (legal & illegal) have long been identified as a problem in the industry.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees and others. Alcoholism is recognised as a disability under the Equality Act and employers are encouraged to support recovery. The use of employee assistance Programmes (EAPs) can be helpful, but this is a very difficult (and sensitive) issue to deal with, especially if the employee does not cooperate.

The legal situation regarding drug & alcohol testing is even more complex.  If intoxicants could be a hazard in the workplace, then the employer’s safety statement should take account of this. Many employers are now introducing policies to deal with this area and are ensuring that contracts for new employees allow for testing.

Employers may carry out drug and alcohol testing where it is provided for in:

(a) an employee’s contract of employment.

(b) any policy on intoxicants which the organisation may have in place that builds in appropriate consent; or

(c) with the express consent of the employee.

Consent is key to ensuring that employers can drug and alcohol test employees. It can be set out in the employees’ contracts, or in a policy, that the employee consents to undergo drug and alcohol tests if required by the Company. You should note that an employee can refuse to submit to a specific test and withdraw that consent however the employer could then potentially take disciplinary action for the refusal.

A message repeatedly being sent by the Irish Courts is that a legally defensible drug and alcohol testing procedure can only exist in circumstances where genuine consultation has taken place between the employee representatives and the employer company. Thus, a dismissal in respect of a test failure could be challenged on foot of a lack of consent in the first instance and a lack of consultation regarding the policy in the second instance.

(Source: RDJ)

The introduction of mandatory drug testing by gardai where serious crashes occur has highlighted the importance of addressing this issue.  

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