Up to Date with the Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements in Building Code 2013?

The new code has been applicable since 16 October last year but it seems that not everyone concerned is across the detail.

Like any government document, it’s a prime candidate for the ‘read it later’ basket. But this piece of Federal Government legislation is too important for anyone in building and construction to just glance through and forget. So we’ve summarised the key points and how they may affect you.

The main changes and how they apply

Building Code 2013 requires contractors to have a comprehensive policy for managing drug and alcohol issues in the workplace; this specifically includes mandatory drug and alcohol testing on Commonwealth funded projects that meet the financial thresholds detailed below.

Broadly speaking, testing applies to all principal contractors as well their sub-contractors, effectively everyone working on the site.

However the principle contractor is not responsible for any employee (except their own) that tests positive so companies on Commonwealth funded projects must still have an AOD policy to cover how they treat employees.

A fitness for work policy is required on Commonwealth funded projects with the following financial thresholds:

  • Where the Commonwealth’s contribution is at least $5,000,000 and represents at least 50% of the total construction project value; or
  • Where the Commonwealth’s contribution is at least $10,000,000. 
The fitness for work policy must address how those on site, including employees of the principal contractor, subcontractors and their employees and others, will be required to comply with the relevant fitness for work policy (ie, through contract or some other enforceable means). 
The fitness for work policy with drug and alcohol testing is not required on private projects or on State government projects that do not meet the applicable threshold for Commonwealth funding.

Who needs to be tested, how and how often?

It’s all about testing the workers involved in the project for the presence of alcohol, opiates, marijuana, cocaine, benzodiazepines
, amphetamines
 and methamphetamines. Methods include sampling of breath, saliva and urine.

As a minimum, frequent and periodic drug and alcohol testing of both construction workers and site office workers should be conducted as follows:

  • Where there are less than 30 workers on site – at least 10% of the workforce;
  • Where there are 30 to 100 workers on site – a minimum of 5 workers per month; and
  • Where there are more than 100 workers on site – a minimum of 10 workers per month.

The minimum frequency for random drug and alcohol testing by principal contractors is at least once per month. Principal contractors must also outline their procedure for targeted testing of higher risk activities, voluntary testing and for-cause testing.

The consequences of positive results

When a person returns a positive result for any of the substances listed they will be deemed unfit for work and prevented from returning until they can prove they are fit to return.

Additional consequences usually result, including disciplinary action, loss of shifts and, quite possibly, dismissal. Penalties await contractors too — including loss of contract.

The importance of ensuring the workforce is clean before staring work cannot be overemphasised. Principal contractors must also outline in their fitness for work policy how workers who attend for work affected by drugs or alcohol will be counseled and assisted, apart from any disciplinary process that might apply.

Common sense and some degree of flexibility need to be applied here, according to the needs of each project. We’re here to help, as always. Please contact us to discuss your individual workforce’s needs.

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