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The Dangers of intoxication at Work


  3 wine glassesThe duties of an employer in relation to intoxicants at work is something every business owner should consider. The definition of intoxicants is laid down in The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (The Act). It includes drugs and alcohol and any combination of drugs or drugs and alcohol. Prescription over the counter drugs are included.

The duties of an employer

The duties of an employer are set out in Section 8 of the Act. This puts a duty on the employer to provide for the safety,health and welfare at work of all employees. The business owner must manage workplace activities in such a way as to prevent behaviour which is likely to put employees at risk. If intoxicants could be a hazard at work this should be included in your safety statement

What should I do if I suspect an employee is intoxicated?

Does the employee's behaviour create a risk, either to themselves or others? If so then you must take steps to reduce that risk by removing the employee from the position of potential risk. It is useful to have the opinion of a second person, eg line manager or other supervisor, if available. The main factor is your assessment of the risk posed by the intoxicated employee.

If you don't have a testing policy in the worker's terms and conditions of employment then you cannot test without their consent. That doesn't prevent you from removing the worker from a situation of risk. If the behaviour is such that you have formed the opinion that they are creating a risk, then you can act. You have a duty of care to your employees, as well as all parties legally present on the premises.

What action can I take now to reduce the impact of an intoxicated worker ?

Check the terms and conditions of employment which you have issued to your employees. Make sure that it is fit for purpose. If you do not have a clause that deals with testing employees for intoxicants at work, then you should add one as soon as possible. Make sure that it is incorporated in all new contracts of employment. The policy must be clear and all employees must be made aware of it. It must take into consideration your obligations under Irish Data Protection legislation.

See article on gross misconduct here

What are the obligations of an employee?

The simple duty of not being under the influence of an intoxicant as set out in Section 13(1) (b) of the Act.

An employee has a duty to assist in the promotion of health and safety in the workplace. This can involve telling the employer when they are taking medication which may affect them in such a way as to create a potential risk in the workplace.

This duty also extends to reporting any fellow worker who appears to be in breach of the act.

Where can I get professional advice on intoxication at work?

For advice on how to incorporate an intoxication testing policy into your terms and conditions of employment or any aspect of this topic, please feel free to contact us using the orange Yes! Tell Me More button below.  


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Image courtesy Kimery Davis      cc.15


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