Comment – The duplicity of drug tests…

The Philadelphia building collapse should make all contractors re-evaluate their drugs policies.

Let’s get this straight up front – Demolition contractors are every bit as adept at gaming random drugs tests as Lance Armstrong ever was. Workers that are known to be “clean” are regularly hand-picked for jobs on rail projects where drugs tests are a pre-requisite. And workers with a questionable relationship with recreational drug use are conveniently “taken ill” on the day of an anticipated test.

Maybe that approach helps secure work with exacting clients. And maybe, in the short term, it helps retain that work. But this is a sticking plaster that is certain to fall off sooner or later.

Although investigations are ongoing, it now appears that an excavator operator allegedly high on marijuana will likely (and rightly) face the full force of the law following last week’s Philadelphia collapse that killed six people. And, as the old saying goes, if America sneezes, the UK catches cold. What happened in the US last week could all too easily be repeated here.

The facts, of course, are quite simple. Like alcohol, drugs have no place on a demolition site. Their ability to impair judgement can turn an otherwise competent operator or operative into a ticking time bomb that can cause harm to themselves, their fellow workers and to any pedestrians unlucky enough to be close by at the time.

Given the size of the equipment at use in demolition, the fact that workers are often required to work at height, and the potential damage that can be wrought by a momentary loss of concentration, the global demolition industry should have long since adopted a zero tolerance stance on drugs. Never mind the local employment laws that require an employer to help provide rehabilitation in the event of a failed drug test. Never mind the fact that marijuana is now as readily accessible as beer and cigarettes. And never mind that, for many people, it is a regular weekend activity. Demolition MUST be a drug-free zone.

Between them, the various national and international trade associations have set in place all manner of self-imposed rules and regulations governing everything from recycling rates and insurance requirements to correct operating procedures for excavators, crushers and attachments. But none has yet had the foresight or the balls to suggest or enforce a zero tolerance drugs policy.

It is high time that they did.

The Philadelphia incident will undoubtedly result in a multi-million dollar lawsuit and, quite possibly, a jail term for the excavator operator if he is found guilty. Compared to that, regular and compulsory random drugs testing would be a mere drop in the financial ocean.