Is it time to review your farm’s WHS policies?
Work Health and Safety policies developed by Turfgrowers should look at including a robust and clear-cut policy around drugs and alcohol in their workplace according to Turf Accreditation organisation AusGAP’s program manager, Nick Dorney.
Speaking on the need to regularly review such policies, Dorney says how drug and alcohol use in the workplace exposes both employees and employers to unnecessary safety risks that can have a devastating impact on business operations and costly legal claims.
AusGAP incorporates a range of important elements into their certification program including Work Health and Safety policies, he says, that are all part of achieving the highest turf quality available.
“A major part of the AusGAP program involves production and harvesting benchmarks and this is where Turfgrowers rely on documented systems like a solid WH&S system,” he explains.
“Laws have changed a lot over recent years in this area and drug and alcohol testing is now mandatory in some industries like construction and mining.
“With privacy and other workplace laws it can be tricky testing on an ad hoc basis and it’s the type of thing that both employers and employees should reach agreement on . . . and that’s where the policy will come into it,” he said.
With national data showing alcohol and other drugs drain up to three billion dollars from Australian workplaces each year due to lost productivity, many employers are reviewing their workplace drug and alcohol policies.
“Employers and even employers who don’t step up to prevent drug and alcohol impaired employees from endangering other staff may be liable for their actions.
“Drugs and alcohol in the workplace can cause a range of significant problems for employers who have ‘duty of care’ obligations to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazards and risks,” he said.
“For these reasons it’s imperative for growers to work-through and implement a drug and alcohol policy for their operation.”
While addressing drug and alcohol use is important in productivity terms, employers in high-risk industries such as building and construction and those in transport or who operate heavy machinery need to take extra care to prevent workers from risk.
Coming up with an effective drug and alcohol policy is a sensitive issue as it covers private behaviour by an employee versus taking all available measures to ensure a safe working environment.
Dorney says growers should be aware of legal complexities involved in developing a workplace policy on drug and alcohol use.
“Too much emphasis is often placed on the on drug and alcohol use, rather than on impairment and fitness for work when developing these policies.
“Fitness for work means being able to work without risk to yourself or others . . . it’s this safety aspect that needs to be at the policy’s core,” he explains.”
Dorney recommends any growers considering drafting a drug and alcohol in the workplace policy consider the following:
– Workplace drug and alcohol testing is legal in Australia, however, it’s necessary that you have a drug and alcohol policy and testing procedures in place before carrying out any testing;
– Employees need to be educated about the terms of any policies and procedures and are aware that testing will take place.
– The policy should be developed in consultation with everyone in the workplace including managers, workers, and health and safety representatives;
– The policy applies equally to all workers across all levels of the operation;
– Acceptable behaviour and the consequences of any unacceptable behaviour is clearly stated;
– If the policy includes testing, describe the testing protocols and procedures; and
– Ensure the policy is clearly and regularly communicated to all members of the workforce.
Contact: AusGAP Pty Ltd
Nick Dorney 0420148744