Safety conscious Irish plan for workplace drug testing

Workers in Ireland could be subject to drink and drugs tests under new
health and safety legislation presented to the Dublin parliament last month.

Under the legislation, which is mainly targeted at staff working in ‘safety
critical’ environments, employers can insist that staff they suspect of being
‘under the influence of an intoxicant’ provide blood or urine samples.

Employees who test positive will be subject to on the spot fines and could
face up to two years in prison.

The Bill also introduces a new employer obligation to do "everything he
or she can, as far as reasonably practicable, to ensure the safety, health and
welfare of his or her employees".

The maximum employer fine for breaching this obligation will be Û3 million
(£2m). And company directors and managers may be held personally liable and
could also face a two-year prison sentence.

Presenting the Bill to parliament Frank Fahey, the minister for labour
affairs, said: "We must recogniseÉ the part that each one of us can play
to ensure safety in the workplace. No single group bears this burden alone. The
new legislation rightly focuses on the responsibilities and obligations of both
employers and employees in this regard."

A registered medical practitioner will have to conduct the tests, with
employees having the right to have their own doctor present.

The Safety Health and Welfare at Work Bill has all-party support and is
expected to become law by the end of the year.

By Mike Berry

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