Safety Charter commitment 9 is all about ensuring that safety is not compromised by anyone under the influence of drugs, alcohol, fatigue, or psycho-social stresses that can reduce one’s ability to work safely.
Impairment can be a difficult thing to observe or to measure. An employee suffering from a physical injury, like a broken arm, is easy to recognize, easy to understand the limitations that this has on safe work, and easy to track progress around when it is safe to return to normal duties. However, fatigue or impairment from alcohol or drugs is not always apparent, and people will go to great lengths to avoid detection.
A workplace is a representation of the wider society of New Zealand, and it is important to recognize that there will always be issues around alcohol and drugs on any work site. Any random or post incident impairment testing must be part of a comprehensive policy and procedure framework, which includes provision for worker participation in its development and appropriate support and rehabilitation assistance.
Work should be designed to reduce and manage any risks which may cause significant stress or fatigue. This should include work hours, driving time, site culture etc. Steps to educate employees on impairment dangers, and the provision of confidential professional help is also required.
The ability to manage risks from impairment requires both proactive and reactive measures, but the takeaway should be that the greater emphasis on the former will require less of the latter.