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April 10, 2015

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Drug driving: What your business needs to know

By Graham Evans

On March 2 2015, new regulations aimed at cracking down on drug-drivers came into force in England and Wales.

Although it has always been illegal to drive whilst under the influence of drugs, the new laws specify exact limits for 16 different illegal and prescription drugs, bringing the legislation in line with drink-driving laws.

Under this new legislation, police will be able to carry out roadside saliva tests, as well as impairment checks. Portable ‘drugalysers’ will be able to detect cocaine and cannabis whilst a blood test will be taken for other substances including heroin, ecstasy and prescription drugs.

Those using prescription drugs within recommended amounts will not be penalised. Prescription drugs covered by the new law are clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, tamazepam, methadone and morphine.

Penalties for drug-driving will be similar to those given for drink-driving and could include a criminal record, a 12-month ban, as well as a fine of up to £5,000.

Employers, particularly those operating a fleet or supply business, need to be aware of these changes. Employees should continue taking their prescription medicines, but be made aware that it is their responsibility to ask their doctor or pharmacist if they might affect their ability to drive. Any drivers that take prescription medication should also be encouraged to carry proof, which they can produce at the roadside if necessary.

Workplace policies and procedures must be in place, which allow employers to deal with any employee who breaks the law. For example, an employer might want to dismiss an employee if they are no longer able to work because of a drug-driving ban or where there are insurance problems due to a previous conviction for drug driving. If an employee has been made aware of the implications of the law and the consequence of its violation to their employment, they are in no position to contest dismissal.

As part of their wider risk assessments, employers should also consider conducting their own random drug testing. To be effective, employers need to introduce a clear drug-testing policy and there should be no doubt about the consequences for any employee who fails a test or refuses to be tested.

Graham Evans is practice leader at Risk Solutions

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