According to the Health and Safety Executive, construction workers are six times more likely to be killed at work than employees in other industries, because of the large number of high-risk and safety-sensitive positions

UK statistics on alcohol and drug use reveal the significant issues facing society. Alcohol consumption can sit within social norms but can escalate to severe addiction. Similarly, it’s a mistake to think of drug use as something confined to the extreme fringes of society, and companies should anticipate the possibility that some of their employees could be taking drugs.

Employers have a duty of care to reduce risks in the workplace. Furthermore, new laws are being introduced holding employers accountable if accidents occur under their supervision.

The Health and Safety Executive’s message to employers is clear: “Employers should adopt a substance misuse policy in consultation with their staff”.

The drug and alcohol policy needs to satisfy two aims, on the one hand serving as a deterrent, while on the other providing effective support. It explains the rules and what the consequences will be for infringements. It is essential that a policy of this kind should be developed in conjunction with employees or their representatives to help secure their consent and buy-in.

The introduction of drug and alcohol testing can be highly effective, not only in identifying problems, but also in reinforcing the message that a company takes misuse seriously. Doing so in consultation with employees helps ensure their understanding of your policies and that testing is conducted in a sensitive and fair manner.

The most successful drugs and alcohol policies tend to combine support, education and training to reinforce an anti-drugs message. Best-practice policies extend to an employee assistance programme that will help give employees access to confidential treatment and advice.

Contrary to fears that testing is about catching people out, the vast majority of tests are part of health and safety initiatives and, as such, generally place the health of and the retention of valuable staff members as a high priority.

Iain Forcer, head of marketing, employee services division, Concateno