Random drug tests will ensure safety of workers: Ministry
April 22, 2018 | 9:55 PM
by Times News Service
Manpower ministry seeks random checks of workers to curb the use of drugs, alcohol

Muscat: Owners of businesses in certain sectors must carry out random medical checks on employees to curb drug and alcohol intake, according to a new Ministry of Manpower ruling.

Article 1 of ministerial decision No. 133/2018 states that “a new Article 24 shall be added to the Regulation on Occupational Safety and Health for establishments subject to the labour law.”

Article 24 reads: “Owners of establishments in the following sectors: oil and gas, ports and airports, electricity and water should conduct random periodic medical examinations for their workers to ensure that they do not consume any drugs, psychotropic substances, or alcoholic beverages. The employer must also take measures to ensure that work sites are free from such substances.”

“All companies have to abide by the decision to avoid any legal accountability,” Salem bin Saeed Al Badi, Director-General of Labour Welfare at the Ministry of Manpower, said. Al Badi told the Times of Oman that the move aims to protect the workers.

“Such sectors are very sensitive and provide several services. Drugs and alcohol intake are very dangerous to both workers and sectors,” he said.

He added that no complaints were received by the Ministry in this regard. “It’s a precautionary measure for the sake of all,” he said. Originally, Article 24 of the ministerial decision No. 286/2008, which dealt with the regulation on Occupational Safety and Health for establishments, did not mention specific industries.”

Furthermore, the previous Article 24 did not specify conducting random medical tests for drugs or alcohol. It was mainly focused on workers exposed to any occupational diseases.

Steven Sheppard, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) advisor for the National Training Institute, said, “This is a welcome change as many residents underestimate the effect of alcohol and drugs, whether they are taking it for recreational or medical purposes.”

“This is a positive step towards ensuring the safety of workers, especially drivers and individuals who operate heavy and hazardous machinery, which are present on sites of establishments

in the oil, gas, water, and electricity sectors.”

“Such a change will ensure the workers are in good health while they are at work. If an individual goes to work under the influence of any substance, the outcome will not only affect the individual but also the health of the other workers, and the environment,” Sheppard said.

“It is very important to have random drugs and alcohol testing, as such substances could cause individuals to act differently, which could damage the reputation of the company. Thus, there are financial and moral implications of using psychotropic substances at the workplace.”

Alkesh Joshi, Partner at Ernst and Young, said the move was a welcome one as it concerned safety. “It is a good move. Companies should make sure their employees are not intoxicated at work. It is especially true for employees who may affect other people and their safety. Drivers and people who operate heavy machinery stand out. Failing in this regard can have dire consequences for other employees and ordinary people.”

“Even if there is no such rule, all organisations should make sure that no one is intoxicated at work,” he added.

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