RANDOM drug and alcohol testing is set to be imposed on council employees who work with boats, road vehicles and other potentially dangerous machinery. SIC managers are pushing for the testing regime for jobs where being intoxicated could lead to serious accidents.
In the past it was common knowledge there was heavy drinking among some men on ferries and Sullom Voe tugs. Although no major accidents resulted, men have been sacked down the years for being drunk.
Councillors were told this week it was unlikely the local authority could justify bringing in random drug and alcohol testing of all staff. But they were advised by officials at Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council: “It is considered proportionate to perform random or unannounced tests on employees who are employed in shipping and marine activities and likely to be appropriate for employees employed to drive council vehicles.”
Talks are to take place with employee representatives with a view to agreeing a system.
Meanwhile, the council is also beefing up its measures for on-the-spot testing of workers on the ferries and at ports and harbours when the effects of drink or drugs are suspected. Four Lion Alcometer breathalysers are to be bought which managers and superintendents will be trained to use. In the case of suspected drug use, mouth swabs can be taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Until now alcohol and drug testing could only be done by the occupational health provider, which has caused problems in dealing with some previous incidents quickly enough.
The drugs tests will look for amphetamine, ecstasy, cannabis, heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, buprenorphine and LSD/PCP.
Workers still have to grant their written permission to being tested and are entitled to have a witness present. However, refusal could lead to disciplinary action. Staff members with drug or alcohol problems are encouraged to seek help from the council to overcome their addictions.