Workplace drug testing on trial

Could you end up in court if your actions as an employee resulted in the serious injury or death of someone else? Credit Bernd Dittrich

“How does the defendant plead,” asks the judge. I hear the words but it’s as if they come from a dream. It’s not until someone taps me on my shoulder that the dream ends and the nightmare begins again.

It’s my lawyer, who’s sitting beside me, looking as if they’d rather be somewhere else. “You need to answer,” she says. So I do. “Guilty, your honour,” because I know I am, but I wonder how on earth it came to this.

How did it come to this?

A year earlier and things were great. You had a steady job at a manufacturing plant, you’d just bought your first home with your wife and had a child on the way.

You’d turned your life around. No more wild nights of cocaine and methamphetamines. No more fights in back alleys. No more gambling all your money away. Just the occasional night out with mates with a few tokes of cannabis and way too many beers. Like last night, with your closest friends.

Your smart enough and disciplined enough to still get to work, however. You can’t afford not to. After a few transgressions, including a couple for failing workplace drug testing, you’re on your last warning.

The gods and your supervisor seem to be on your side and you’re given the job on the fork lift this morning. Just as well, as you don’t think you could handle manual work. While no one could tell, you’re still under the weather and probably, truth-be-told, still under the influence.

A couple of hours in and you need a break. One more load and you can head for smoko. So you go a little faster to offload and then head for the break room. But before you can, you feel a jolt and presume that one of the drums you’re carrying has fallen, so you stop and get off. It’s only then you realise that it wasn’t a falling drum. You’ve run over a colleague and they look in a bad way.

A safe workplace is everyone’s responsibility

Can employees be held liable for a mistake they make at work? Could they end up in the witness box and potentially in jail?

The simple answer is yes. While it doesn’t happen regularly, employees can be held to account for their actions at work if they are personally liable for their conduct.

These types of cases involving employees can occur for a variety of reasons, including where an employee’s conduct results in harm to someone else. All employees have a duty of care to ensure their actions aren’t dangerous and won’t cause harm to themselves or others. Examples of not taking appropriate care can include misusing work equipment and ignoring workplace hazards or health and safety instructions.

While the ‘case’ above is not real, it describes an incident that could certainly result in criminal and/or civil action. In particular, you knowingly came to work with the potential to be under the influence. If workplace drug testing after the incident proves you are under the influence, you could be in trouble. Plus, your poor record is another red flag for legal action.

While you can’t do anything about what has happened, you can fully cooperate and seek the best legal advice you can afford. You’re going to need it!

Could you end up in court if your actions as an employee resulted in the serious injury or death of someone else?


Could you end up in court if your actions as an employee resulted in the serious injury or death of someone else? Credit Bernd Dittrich

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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