The Australian Government announced amendments to the Building Code 2013 (Code) which will take effect on and from 16 October 2015.

There are two major changes to the Code as a result of the amendments.  Those are:

  • a requirement that a work health safety and rehabilitation (WHS&R) management system show the way in which drug and alcohol issues in the workplace will be managed to ensure that no one performing building work on site is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs;  
  • if there is a requirement to establish a management plan for WHS&R as a principal contractor,  that it does not provide for the implementation and costs of drug and alcohol testing to be passed on to contractors; and  
  • a requirement that the management plan for WHS&R include a fitness for work policy to manage alcohol and drugs in the workplace, if the building work is not privately funded building work and:  
    • ­the value of the Commonwealth’s contribution to the project is at least $5,000,000 and represents at least 50% of the total construction project value; or  
    • ­the Commonwealth’s contribution to the project is at least $10,000,000.

If there is a need to include a fitness for work policy to manage alcohol and drugs in the management plan for WHS&R, the policy must address:

  • how those on site will be required to comply with the policy;  
  • the use of medical testing methods to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in a worker’s system (ensuring that testing is conducted for alcohol, opiates, THC, cocaine, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and methamphetamines) and the detection methods to be used;  
  • that a worker found to have alcohol, opiates, THC, cocaine, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and methamphetamines in their system will be deemed to not be fit for work and will be prevented for performing work until they can prove they are fit for work;  
  • certain minimum testing requirements each month;  
  • procedures for the selection of personnel to be tested (including targeted testing); and  
  • how workers will be counselled and assisted (other than as part of a disciplinary process) if they attend for work affected by drugs or alcohol.   

A copy of the Code, in which the recent amendments are marked-up, can be downloaded here.

What do the amendments mean for employers?

Building industry participants should ensure that their WHS&R management system and management plans have been amended to comply with the new requirements of the Code.