Scottish Plant Owners Association calls on Construction Leadership Council to tackle drug and alcohol abuse in the construction industry

17/04/2023
Callum Mackintosh

THE Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA) has written to the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), calling on the organisation to tackle drug and alcohol abuse among plant operators in the construction industry which is becoming a major problem.

The SPOA has been leading on this issue for a while, having called on all stakeholders in the industry to recognise the problem and take action back in 2020. The Association has already confirmed with the National Plant Operators Registration Scheme (NPORS) and the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) that they have the mechanics in their systems to introduce a scheme like that used by the rail industry where failed drug or alcohol tests lead to competence card holders having their cards either temporarily suspended or permanently revoked should industry require it.

Speaking about the issue, Callum Mackintosh, President of the SPOA, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the CLC does not regard the widespread and very serious issue of drug and alcohol abuse in the construction industry as a priority. The CLC has failed to produce a policy on the issue which I would regard as the bare minimum. There is currently no deterrent to prevent plant operators from turning up for work whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

“The SPOA believes that there should be scope to remove competence cards if a plant operator fails a drug or alcohol test. The industry should approach this in the same way as the consequences of any driver who drives whilst under the influence. We believe that failure to tackle this issue is a ticking timebomb with a serious accident on a construction site simply waiting to happen.

“Alarming research published by the Considerate Constructors Scheme found that 59% of those surveyed had concerns over the effects of drugs and alcohol in construction, 35% noticed their colleagues under the influence of drugs and alcohol and 25% agreed that drugs and alcohol affected them at work through tiredness. This simply cannot be allowed to continue.

“The CLC’s creation was a result of the 2013 Pye Tait report. That same report also gave the CLC the power to investigate the best ways of establishing a common industry approach to the limited life of all cards, the renewal process and any required revocation processes.

“The CLC therefore has the power to act and the whole industry is looking to the Council to show leadership on this issue.”

The main concerns, in addition to the clear health and safety issues on site, raised by the SPOA are as follows:

  • There is currently no real deterrent to prevent plant operators turning up unfit for work or even to remain fit during working hours.
  • When plant operators fail a drug or alcohol test, they are often sent home driving the vehicle they arrived in. Research by MoneySuperMarket found that many professions in the construction industry feature in the top ten most likely to drink and drive so this is already widely known.
  • Whilst employers can be punished if a member of staff has failed a drug or alcohol test, the plant operator who failed the test is not.
  • Record keeping across the industry is poor meaning that if a plant operator is dismissed by an employer for failing a drug or alcohol test, they can easily find employment elsewhere.

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