Drug & Alcohol monitoring in the workplace

If you are considering implementing a Drug & Alcohol policy in your workplace, there are some considerations that should be worked through prior to the introduction of the policy. Though there is case law available that has supported employer’s decision to terminate a worker, there are as many cases where the worker has overturned this decision due to poor design and implementation of the policy.
However, before getting to a court of law to determine if a termination was just, employers should ensure that their company’s drug and alcohol policies are developed through a consultative approach to assist in defining all the issues and how the process will evolve should a breach be identified.
The Policy should
– clearly define in simple terms what is unacceptable behaviour, including any forms of disciplinary behaviour such as dismissal.
– be part of a structured communication process that ensures a consistent message is given to all workers including new workers, contractors and visitors to site.
– consider precautions to be implemented that consider False Positives and even the possibility of faulty measuring equipment used as part of the initial testing. These units are becoming more precise however they are only indicators of a Non Negative and that a Positive result is only provided from the NATA testing agency. Management reacting too early; victimising or even seen to be punishing a worker at this early stage should be cautioned.
In short when implementing any workplace policy, employers need to ensure the policy is clear, widely and consistently disseminated in an easily to understand format to assist in avoiding any confusion or a HR issue.

Was your workplace built before 2004? Do you have an Asbestos Management Register Plan?

If the workplace is a building that was constructed after 31 December 2003; and no asbestos has been identified at the workplace; and no asbestos is likely to be present at the workplace from time to time, there is no need to have a register. Buildings that fall outside this requirement must still either state the location, type, condition of the asbestos or state that no asbestos or ACM is identified at the workplace.

What is appropriate signage?

Appropriate signage would require a completed assessment and consultation of the workers and maybe an external agency or organisation. Some signage is standard and represented in legislative documents and becomes mandatory while others are subjective and should be part of the consultative process. Understanding that signage is part of the safe workplace option and low on the hierarchy of control.

Recent Prosecutions

Prosecutions are an essential part of the Department’s role as a regulator and assist in prevention by deterring others from committing workplace health and safety offences. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland aims to ensure prosecution activity is strategically targeted for maximum impact and is supported by evidence based research to help target identified areas of concern.

Year Total No. of Prosecutions Completed % Successful Prosecutions Fine$ Costs$
2006-07 126 81% 2,952,950    232,722.00
2007-08 105 83% 2,788,700 84,193.25
2008-09 146 90% 3,312,750    282,281.23
2009-10 117 89% 3,918,350    414,347.54
2010-11 99 83% 2,819,900    257,874.10
2011-12* 98 73.4% 2,924,400 236,830.68
2012-13** 105 63% 2,328,500 221,395.95
2013-14*** 40 67.5% 1,722,500 80,864

* These figures include three (3) prosecutions conducted by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Legal and Prosecution Services under the Electrical Safety Act 2003.

** These figures include six (6) prosecutions conducted by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Legal and Prosecution Services under the Electrical Safety Act 2003.

*** These figures were for the 2013-2014 financial year to date as at 31/03/2014.  The figures include two (2) prosecutions conducted by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Legal and Prosecution Services under the Electrical Safety Act 2003.


Finalised prosecutions

The following list shows Workplace Health and Safety finalised prosecutions for the period 1 January 2014 – 30 March 2014.

Name of Defendant Section of Act or Regulation Fine
1 Marglen Pty Ltd s.32 WHSA 2011– Duty 21(2) $120,000
2 N.K. Collins Industries Pty Ltd s.28(2) WHS Act 1995 $50,000
3 Spencer, Hugh John s.32 WHSA– Duty 27(1) Defendant placed on 12 month good behaviour bond with a surety of $10,000
4 T & S Trees Pty Ltd s.32 WHSA 2011- Duty 19(1) $45,000.00 fine plus court ordered undertaking for 12 months with a surety of $10,000
5 Teys Australia Biloela Pty Ltd s.28(1) WHS Act 1995 $15,000
6 Thomson, Ian Craig s.32 WHSA 2011– Duty 21(2) $10,000
7 Torrisi, John Joseph s.32 WHSA 2011– Duty 19(1) Defendant placed on 12 month ordered undertaking with a surety of $20,000
8 Victus International Pty Ltd s.32 WHSA 2011– Duty 19(1) $27,500

Recent Incident Alert! Brace yourself..

A school had an occurrence recently which they deemed as a notifiable dangerous incident  ( WHS ACT 2011 section  37 – A serious risk to a person’s health and safety emanating from the release from height of any plant, substance or thing ….) which they reported to Worksafe Queensland.  A bracing arm in a shade structure fell to the ground from a height of about two metres pivoting around an end that was still attached to a post.  Fortunately, the incident happened at a time when students were in class.  On investigation, the nut securing the bolt to the post and arm was missing.  This event is not a “one off” as we are aware of at least one other incident at one of our school clients where a brace fell and struck a student.  A review of both incidents indicates the possibility that in certain situations the wind across tight shade sails can make the whole structure vibrate and this vibration can in turn loosen fixings.


1. Ensure lock tight nuts are fitted throughout the structure and each nut is torque sealed to make inspection easy.
2. Ensure that the integrity of fittings on shade structures is included in your playground equipment checklist.
3. Ensure your playground equipment inspections are being completed weekly and recorded.



Parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff

I came across this at a recent training session at a client’s training room.

Yes, these two pens are different as the distinction is written on the markers in the fine print, permanent / whiteboard.

A distinction I only realized when attempting to erase some of the work on the whiteboard.

How would you go choosing the correct one of these off the whiteboard tray in your training room?

‘No big deal’ I was told, as they had the whiteboard cleaner and rag on hand for when this happens.

But surely this is like ‘parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’.

So I cleaned off the whiteboard and continued this time using the whiteboard marker as one of the staff members returned the permanent marker to the tray holding all the other markers.

All set for the next unsuspecting presenter, but remember the whiteboard cleaner and rag is on hand when it does happen again.

This is a simple, yet ‘tongue in cheek’, example of when considering controls for workplace hazards that the Elimination, Substitution or Engineering controls are far better than the Administrative process of using signs, training and/or procedures.

Would a sign on the wall stating ‘please don’t use permanent markers’, have really helped?

But why leave the permanent marker there, ‘why not get rid of the permanent markers and only purchase the whiteboard type, or at least make a clear distinction between the two types’.

A simple question but it appeared easier to have the whiteboard cleaner available for when the mistake occurred because sometimes the wrong markers were either purchased or brought into the room from other areas of the business.

Then came the clincher but ‘this is how we have always done this.’


Change the words ‘whiteboard/permanent marker’ in this situation to just about any item of plant that has a particular hazard when you put a control into place.

Then ask the question ‘are you parking an ambulance at the base of the cliff?’, are you allowing the hazard to eventuate and then dealing with it using a lower level control.