Ice epidemic hits construction, manufacturing, transport sectors

17 June, 2015

In a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement's inquiry into crystal methamphetamine (Ice) the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has highlighted the particular dangers of the ice epidemic for the manufacturing, construction and transport industries.

"Ai Group Members have a direct interest in the Inquiry due to the significant impact the drug Ice has in Australian workplaces.  The distribution, supply and usage of Ice, directly affects Australian employers by creating significant work health and safety risks, damaging working relationships, draining labour productivity and reducing workforce participation,"  Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said.

"Ai Group's submission highlights research which demonstrates that 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 paramount and Ice users are placing the lives of their co-workers and the community at greater risk.  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 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.

"Unions need to drop their opposition and accept drug and alcohol testing regimes that will deter drug and alcohol use and lead to safer working environments.  They need to work with employers to make drug and alcohol testing regimes effective," Willox said.

Ai Group's submission includes a number of recommendations for tackling Ice usage including:

  • 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.
  • Conducting work health and safety campaigns aimed at educating the community about the risks created by methamphetamine use in operating machinery and vehicles.
  • Encouraging law enforcement agencies to provide liaison services and dedicated hotlines for employers and employees impacted by Ice, including for those in regional and remote locations.
  • Developing education resources 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