The Australian Constructors Association has called for drug and alcohol testing on building sites to remain, after the Federal Government announced sweeping changes to the way the industry will be regulated.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke announced recently that building code regulation changes would come into effect from Tuesday. This precedes planned legislation changes later this year, which includes reducing the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to a bare minimum and expanding the role of the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The government says the changes are to ensure workers are bound by equal laws. In an interview with ABC News, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said, “What there should be is the same laws across the entire industrial relations system applying to every single worker. The way in which this particular sector has been singled out under the ABCC was not fair.”
Peak construction bodies have called on drug and alcohol testing, currently managed by the ABCC, to continue.
The testing, which was introduced several years ago, was part of measures introduced to ensure people who on are building sites to perform work were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Under the laws, drug and alcohol testing became compulsory for all people on building sites that were funded or part-funded by the Commonwealth Government and met certain funding thresholds.
Australian Constructors Association chief executive Jon Davies was one of the people to call on the government to retain the testing.
“Ongoing drug and alcohol testing requirements are important as the safety consequences of drug and alcohol impairment on a construction site cannot be overstated, irrespective of how projects are funded,” he said.
Mr Davies added, “While the construction industry currently has additional oversight, it is important the pendulum not swing too far towards an unregulated environment that fails to recognise the unique and, at times, troubled history of the sector.”
Will drug and alcohol testing on construction site stay?
While there’s been no official word on whether the drug and alcohol testing laws will stay, the government has indicated there is likely to be changes.
When asked if rules on alcohol and drug testing on building sites would continue, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the regulations were “really weird”.
“The threshold for when they apply and when they don’t isn’t based on a safety concern,” he said in an interview with ABC News. “It’s based on, one, whether you’re in construction, and two, a formula of the extent of commonwealth contribution relative to the value of the project, as though somehow that’s a safety principle.”
What if the laws are changed?
It should be highlighted that even if legislation is changed, responsibility for employers to ensure a safe workplace for employees and others on construction sites will remain. This includes responsibilities under OH&S acts in each state.
So, whether the sweeping compulsory drug and alcohol testing rules remain or not, construction sites will still need to manage drug and alcohol issues on site. In many cases, this is likely to include regular testing of people on the site.
The Australian Constructors Association has called for drug and alcohol testing on building sites to remain. Credit Mark Potterton https://unsplash.com/photos/sNVkn3507Oo