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Staying Sober

Reduce risk and improve productivity with alcohol and drug testing in the construction industry.

Staying Sober

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in as the potential for occupational accidents is high. In addition, the industry also has a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse, not only in South Africa, but also across the world. This hazardous combination not only puts workers and their colleagues in danger, but it also creates unnecessary risk for construction companies, who may be held liable should accidents occur with employees under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Rhys Evans Sober
Rhys Evans

Mitigating this risk and ensuring the safety of all parties requires a multi-faceted approach that includes appropriate substance abuse policies, education and the right equipment to deter alcohol and drug related incidents.

The very nature of the construction industry is what makes it hazardous to work in. Workers are often required to handle heavy machinery, drive large vehicles, operate dangerous equipment or perform tasks such as welding that are all risky even when undertaken by a completely sober individual.

However, this situation is exacerbated by the addition of alcohol and drugs to the workplace. While local statistics on substance abuse in the construction industry are not readily available, international research shows that this is an on-going problem, and South Africa faces the same challenges. Alcohol abuse and drug problems The reasons for the significant rate of alcohol abuse are numerous.

alc2 SoberOften workers are not educated as to the dangers. In addition, the construction industry often requires workers to travel far from their homes, living on site away from their families.

Drinking often ensues after work as a result of boredom. Drug abuse is another challenge. Marijuana is one example of a fairly commonly used drug, and the consequences of marijuana usage on an active construction site can be incredibly dangerous.

alc3 SoberA multi-faceted approach The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) stipulates a zero tolerance policy for intoxication in the workplace.

However, it is up to construction companies to enforce this. Ensuring safety in the workplace requires a multi-faceted approach that includes education, appropriate policies and the right equipment to deter alcohol and drug related incidents.

Urine Drug Test 6 panel Sober
Urine Drug Test 6 panel

Education is critical in creating awareness of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse in the work environment. Substance abuse policies back this up, providing comprehensive guidelines in how to apply policies. However, organisations need to be aware that in order to conduct alcohol and drug testing, employee consent is required first.

Working in tandem with education and substance-abuse policies, technology can assist organisations to test employees with minimum disruption to productivity.

Rapid breathalyzer and drug testing equipment can be used for quick, accurate readings of employees suspected of being under the influence, as well as for random testing. The latest breathalyzer technology is safer and faster than ever, providing a quick result with a tiny breath sample, delivering pass or fail feedback that is not subject to misinterpretation.

alc5 SoberOn-site disposable saliva drug tests can also be helpful, as they can be used quickly and easily at the construction site without the need for or expense of sending urine samples to a laboratory.

Such breathalyzers and rapid drug testing equipment are readily available and are extremely useful in detecting and deterring substance abuse in the workplace. By using appropriate technology such as this, in conjunction with policies and education, construction companies can mitigate the risks of alcohol and drug usage on site.

By Rhys Evans,Director at ALCO-Safe

Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa