Testing times: Ice in the workplace


Did you know that people who take the drug Ice (Methamphetamine) are more likely to be in the paid workforce? And work in construction, transport or hospitality?

Since 2010 the frequency of ice usage in the community, as well as the drug’s purity (and addictive qualities), has significantly increased. And our members are feeling the effects of this.

Employers in the construction, manufacturing and transport industries are particularly affected given both the higher than average use of Ice by employees in these industries and the industry prevalence of heavy machinery and vehicle operation. These are industries where work health and safety is clearly paramount.

However, despite the safety concerns, instinctive opposition from some unions when workplace drug and alcohol testing is raised has inhibited many employers in managing work health and safety risks.

Ice is a particularly insidious drug as its usage is often difficult to detect without testing. Ai Group members tell us that unlike users of alcohol and other drugs, Ice users often have no prior history and initially show no unusual behavior. It was only when it was too late and an incident had occurred or when testing was conducted that the Ice usage was revealed.

In Ai Group’s submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry into Ice, we have included input from members concerning the difficult times they’ve had in managing ice-affected employees – particularly on regional or remote worksites.

We’ve recommended:

  • Recognising that drug and alcohol testing at the workplace is a key action employers can take to protect the safety of employees and the community;
  • Work health and safety campaigns aimed at educating the community about the risks created by methamphetamine use in operating machinery and vehicles;
  • Law enforcement agencies provide liaison services and dedicated hotlines for employers and employees impacted by Ice, including for those in regional and remote locations; and
  • Education resources be developed to assist employers to deal with the impacts of Ice in their workplaces, including providing details of external support services for affected employees to complement existing employee assistance programs (EAPs) provided by many employers.

Do you support our recommendations? What’s your position on drug and alcohol testing in your workplace? Share your experiences and ideas below.

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Nicola Street
As Ai Group's National Manager – Workplace Relations Policy, Nicola is involved in employment test cases and law reform affecting the workplaces of industry. She regularly appears in the Fair Work Commission and Government Inquiries on behalf of Ai Group members, and has many years of “on the ground” strategic experience in advising employers in employment law and people & culture strategies.

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