Opinion – Time to tackle industry drink/drug crisis

Imagine you work at a McDonalds restaurant (other burger chains are available…). You start out flipping burgers or taking orders but you work hard and you’re never late. Your dedication is spotted and you get a promotion, and then another. Pretty soon, you are a line manager with people reporting to you directly. A year or two later, you’re the manager and then a regional manager. All your hard work, dedication, commitment and sacrifice has seen you rise through the ranks to reach the very pinnacle of your field of endeavour.

And then you go back to flipping burgers. That would suck, right. All those hours, all that talent, all that ambition and all that sacrifice wasted as you take a step back down the ladder.

Now imagine you are a demolition contractor. You start out as a one-man band but you work hard and you grow and expand: first locally; then regionally; and then nationally. You now have a thriving company with a growing reputation. And that reputation lands you a contract working in a petro-chemical works or beside a railway line. Once again, you raise your game. You employ specialists. You undertake additional training. You put in place additional systems such as daily safety briefings and random drug and alcohol testing to ensure that your team meets these new and more exacting standards. Your company just went from good to great.

And then, when that project comes to an end, those additional systems and protocols are forgotten. Daily safety briefings are abandoned along with the random drug and alcohol testing.

You have taken your company to the very pinnacle of demolition excellence and then you have chosen (and I emphasise the word chosen) to take a step down the demolition food chain of excellence. You have breathed the pure and rarified air atop the industry mountain and you have deliberately returned to the smog down at base camp.

Last week, amidst the furore surrounding John Lynch being confirmed as the National Federation of Demolition Contractors’ president-elect, there was a lot of talk about the key issues that he might tackle during his deserved presidency. In a poll conducted during The Break Fast Show live broadcast, the introduction of a compulsory drug and alcohol testing protocol was far and away the winner. In fact, it wasn’t even close. It seems that those in the industry – those in middle management; those in site management; and those right at the workface – are unwilling to tolerate the presence of drugs and alcohol any longer. And with good reason.

In demolition and in construction, your health, safety and even your life rests in the hands of those working alongside and around you. Demolition requires constant focus and unwavering attention. Any lapse could prove fatal. With that in mind, the introduction of a compulsory and regular random drugs and alcohol testing regime seems entirely appropriate.

If someone is found to be endangering themselves or others through the misuse of drugs or alcohol, they should be offered support, assistance and quite possibly rehabilitation.

But what about after that? We all know how this industry works. If someone is let go/fired/forcibly ejected for having been under the influence of alcohol or drugs while at work, there is precisely NOTHING to prevent them finding new employment, quite possibly in a matter of days.

We have a competence card scheme that tracks and monitors every new training course, every new career progression. Could that not also be used to track drug and alcohol-related indiscretions?

Surely it is in the industry’s best interests to ensure that future employers are aware of an employee’s past drug or alcohol indiscretions. Or are we happy to continue along our “merry” way, safe in the knowledge that the worker with the alcohol or drug issues is now someone else’s problem?