18/10/18 Drugs and alcohol on site

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Over recent years, alcohol and drugs misuse has been an increasing issue in the industry and although the majority of contractors and suppliers now say that they carry out regular tests, it seems that there’s still an issue, although we’re lacking data to back it up.

It goes without saying that when working in the industry, concentration, co-ordination and being of sound mind is critical to both the safety and success of a project.  Accidents caused by impairment or intoxication can be detrimental to the health of workers, but also to the reputation of the workers and company. Implementing a drug and alcohol policy and enforcing it with drug and alcohol screening is one of the only ways to reduce these risks. Due to the large machinery and tools used in a construction project, there are few industries where health and safety is more important.

A survey carried out last year by the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) revealed that despite 35% of people saying they had noticed colleagues under the influence of drugs and alcohol during working hours, 65% said that they had never been screened or tested for either by their employer. I’m sure most employers are aware of the risks, but maybe they aren’t sure what to do about it? The CCS has launched a new programme to help employers tackle drug and alcohol issues in the industry. The organisation has launched an online Drugs and Alcohol course focusing on how contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and clients can take practical and effective measures to protect their employees. The course aims to provide a platform for the industry to learn about the risks as well as methods to manage them and support those who need it. After taking the lessons online, companies can take a quiz. If they answer more than 70% of questions correctly they will pass the course and receive a certificate.

What does worry me is that the only piece of major research on how the industry is affected by drugs and alcohol is now over 2 years old. The figures were alarming enough back in 2016, but now we don’t know whether the issue is getting better or worse. Without new figures it’s unlikely that people will take action. Just last month, Barratt Developments announced they had introduced random drugs and alcohol tests as a way of focussing more on health and safety after their injury rate increased by more than a fifth last year. It’s time for the industry to take control of drugs and alcohol on site, but I do believe we need more figures and data to know where action is needed. Until then, I think we need to make sure we’re all doing the best we can to ensure health and safety on site is a top priority.

The CCS online course is available on the CCS Best Practice hub and offers lessons on drugs and alcohol in the workplace and what can be done to address misuse.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.