Employment Partner, Clare Waller takes a look at new legislation aimed at prohibiting “drug driving” and how it may affect employers in the construction industry Parliament will be looking at a bill in the near future which will create a new offence of driving, or being in control of a motor vehicle, with concentrations of controlled drugs in the system. This legislation is similar to the drink driving laws.
At the moment there isn’t anything specific that prohibits drivers from being under the influence of drugs. The existing offence of driving whilst impaired requires the police to prove this in every case. The new proposals say the presence of a specified amount of a listed drug will be a criminal offence. There will be no need to show that this caused impairment while driving.
Prescribed medication won’t be covered as it is intended that the drugs on the list will be limited to ‘controlled drugs’ under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. These drugs are known to impair driving or affect road safety. The existing offence of driving while impaired will still affect people whose ability to drive is influenced by prescribed or over the counter medicine.
This proposed new offence will be relevant to employers in the construction industry who have workers that drive or operate machinery as part of their job. Employers have to make sure that both employees and others are not put at risk by work-related driving under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
People who drive or operate machinery for business purposes should be required by their employers to not do so if they think they are impaired for whatever reason – be it alcohol, drugs, fatigue or illness. Employees should report to their line manager if they consider themselves to be impaired and if they fail to do so it should be made clear that they may be committing a criminal and/or a disciplinary offence.
The self-report requirement does not mean that an employer is relieved from its obligation to prevent an employee from undertaking activities where it knows, or reasonably ought to have known, that the employee’s ability to drive was affected for any reason. It would deal with the issue where the employer would have had no reason to suspect impairment.
A practical outcome of this is if an employee reports that they are impaired from carrying out an essential element of their work. In the absence of alternative duties, which could be reasonably assigned to them, the employee could be required to take holiday, placed on medical suspension or, if the appropriate contractual provision allowed, be placed on unpaid leave for that period.
For further help, please contact Clare Waller on email@example.com or on 01223 532730.