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Drug and Alcohol Policies - Do I need one?

I’ve recently been asked by a client if they need a Drug and Alcohol Policy. My first response to this question is always with a question of my own: ‘What makes you think you need one?’

If an employer is concerned that their workers are consuming alcohol or drugs at work, or believes workers may be coming to work impaired by alcohol or drugs then implementing a drug and alcohol policy may be appropriate. However, implementing a drug and alcohol policy where no such problem exists may cause confusion or resentment amongst workforce, particularly if the rationale behind it is not explained clearly. After all, no one likes to be accused of something they haven’t done.

If it is normal for a business to serve alcohol at the end of the week, or during/after meetings it is important to consider how a drug and alcohol policy will be worded. It would be a very poor show indeed if a policy specifically prohibited the consumption of alcohol in the workplace, yet the board room contained a refrigerator full of beer and wine! I have seen this in several workplaces throughout my career and such circumstances guarantee that workers will not take the policy seriously.

Our general advice is that alcohol does not need to be prohibited at work but sturdy controls are certainly required to ensure the client is not exposed to prosecutions for failing in their duty of care to ensure the health and safety of workers and others at the workplace.

Following on from implementing a drug and alcohol policy, which states the company commitment to managing drugs and alcohol in the workplace, a procedure should be written that describes how the company intends to manage drugs and alcohol in the workplace.


Consideration needs to be given to:

  • What levels of impairment is acceptable (if any) for alcohol;

  • What drugs will be tested for;

  • How testing may be conducted (e.g. by doctor, saliva tests, urine tests etc);

  • How confirmation testing may be conducted;

  • The role of supervisors in testing protocols;

  • How often workers will be tested and under circumstances;

  • The role of pre-employment medical tests including drug and alcohol tests;

  • What the consequences will be of failing to pass a drug or alcohol test;

  • What human resources/industrial relations/workers compensation issues may arise from disciplinary action due to impairment by alcohol/drugs.


These issues require specialist advice and we recommend employers considering implementing a drug and alcohol policy contact us for guidance.


Moore McPhee WHS Consultants specialise in the needs of small and medium businesses. We are here to help and can provide cost effective solutions for your business. Contact us on 1300 362 351, or speak directly to our Senior Principal Consultant Vanessa Moore on 0401 382 083 or at [email protected] for a confidential discussion about your particular work health and safety needs.


Disclaimer: Any advice and information in this article is general in nature, does not take into account particular circumstances and should not be construed as professional advice. Unless specifically stated otherwise, the information in this article is prepared for South Australian Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking as defined in the SA Work Health and Safety Act 2012 only. The information may be applicable to other states of Australia that have adopted the harmonised work health and safety legislation but is not guaranteed.


© Moore McPhee WHS Consultants Pty Ltd 2016. All rights reserved. Copyright from other authors is acknowledged were applicable. Do not copy, publish or reuse without permission.

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