If you were an owner, manager or other senior officer of a business in Victoria and your conduct negligently caused the death of an employee or others on your work site, you could face up to 25 years in prison. The penalty in NSW is the same. Meanwhile, in Queensland and the ACT, you could face up to 20 years behind bars.
Which is why managing drugs and alcohol in the workplace, and conducting drug and alcohol testing, is even more important.
What are these tough laws?
The laws that can lead to the lengthy imprisonment of senior officers are called industrial manslaughter laws. They were first introduced in Australia nearly 20 years ago in the ACT and while the rest of the country has been a bit slow to catch up, similar laws are now in place in nearly every state and territory.
Fatalities of workers in Australian workplaces in general and two high profile cases are behind the impetus, particularly in Queensland. The first of the high profile cases was an incident at Eagle Farm Race Course, when a concrete slab fell on two employees, killing them. Then there was the much publicized accident at Dreamworld, where four patrons lost their lives when the river rapids ride malfunctioned.
Essentially the industrial manslaughter laws are all about health and safety and the duty of care that employers have for employees and others. While the full extent of the laws are reserved for cases where there has been negligence and recklessness, as highlighted above, the penalties can be severe.
What has this got to do with drug and alcohol testing?
What do industrial manslaughter laws have to do with workplace drug and alcohol testing?
Consider a scenario where you are a business owner or manager and you are involved in long-haul truck transportation. Safety is obviously vital and you have a reasonably thorough health and safety program in place. However, there’s a chink in your program. You don’t do anything, or much, to manage drugs and alcohol.
Maybe you don’t have a drug and alcohol management policy or you don’t follow it. Maybe you don’t educate your workers on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Maybe you don’t conduct drug and alcohol testing of your employees. Maybe you do conduct testing but don’t follow up when someone does test positive.
All these actions are leading you open to severe consequences, if one of your truck drivers had an accident with drugs or alcohol in their system and someone died. It could be the truck driver that dies or another road user. Either way, you’re in trouble and potentially open to being prosecuted for industrial manslaughter.
This type of scenario could just as easily be applied in manufacturing, aviation, agriculture, construction and many other businesses.
Take action now
If reading this post has you worried, take action now. Develop a comprehensive drug and alcohol management policy, provide education to your people, have a robust drug and alcohol testing program with reasonable consequences, and provide support for people with drug and alcohol issues.
Take the dangers of drugs and alcohol seriously, before it’s too late.
Don’t leave it until it’s too late to develop a drug and alcohol policy and implement workplace drug testing in your business. Credit Scott Blake https://unsplash.com/photos/x-ghf9LjrVg