Mandatory drug and alcohol testing and fitness to work policies are now requirements under the Building Code 2013.

These sweeping reforms are an initiative of the Federal Government in a commitment to workplace health, safety and productivity on construction sites.

Minimum workplace policy requirements will be enforced by the FWBC on head contractors who  will have until October 16, 2015 to have a compliant policy in place.

Drug and alcohol testing, particularly on mine sites, have often proved problematic. There can be a number of potential adverse consequences for a business with an employee who fails a drug or alcohol test. For example, it could constitute a breach of the construction contract. If the superior contractor or principal is keen to have the contractor or subcontractor off the job, depending on what is in the construction contract, the failure of the drug test can be used as grounds to terminate the contract or otherwise place pressure on the contractor  or subcontractor in negotiations for example, on variations.

Terminating or otherwise disciplining an employee who has failed a drug or alcohol test, can often cause significant employment law problems for the employer. Employers need to be very careful, have appropriate policies in place, regularly conduct appropriate training and ensure consistency and fairness in the application of their policies. All employers should have their policies and procedures in this regard checked, preferably by an employment lawyer, in order to minimise the risk of an adverse outcome for the business.