The Australian Government Department of Defence sets a workable standard for drug and alcohol policies and procedures that companies can emulate. Given the importance of the work the national defence teams manage, it should not be surprising that there is a zero tolerance standard for drug and alcohol use. The policy states that, “ADF has a zero tolerance to the use of prohibited substances (illicit drugs)… Consequently, all ADF members are expected to adhere to this zero tolerance policy, including the misuse of prescription or over the counter drugs and medicines.”1 The key word is ”all” because workplace safety requires that every organizational member, without exception, be free of the influence of drugs and alcohol.

It is tempting to think of random drug and alcohol testing programs as applicable to everyone except the managers and supervisors administering and monitoring the program. It is human nature to think that people responsible for enforcing the alcohol and drug program would not be using the same substances they are testing others for in the workplace. However, such assumptions threaten workplace safety because those assumptions shield people who may very well be under the influence of illegal or prescription substances and feel free to continue using them since they are excluded from random testing.

All The Way Through

The councillors of the Sunshine Coast understand this issue and have set a standard for other employers to follow. In April 2013, the council instituted a policy of compulsory staff testing using oral swabs and breath-testing. Though the Services Union said the policy would not be supported, the “Daily’s online bloggers favoured the testing as long as it was introduced ‘all the way through.’”2 In other words, people do not have an issue with compulsory drug and alcohol testing, as long as it is required for everyone.

Mayor Mark Jamieson and the 13 councillors who voted for the policy say, in essence, “bring it on.” The councillors made it clear they have nothing to hide, no problem being included in the testing program, and believe they must set a standard for the 2,433 workers that will participate in the program. The initial reaction is, “Shouldn’t it always be that way?” Why would supervisors, managers, and executives exclude themselves from random drug and alcohol testing programs, if they have nothing to hide and want to send a clear message throughout the workforce that substance use will not be tolerated?

No Special Status

A drug and alcohol policy cannot apply to certain people and exclude others. Adopting that kind of policy sends a message that some people have special status in terms of substance use. However, does any company want managers making important decisions while under the influence of substances? In fact, managers or supervisors using drugs or alcohol can seriously jeopardise workplace safety by having more tolerance for employees who use substances, ‘playing favourites” out of a misguided sense of loyalty, or making poor decisions.

There should never be any exceptions in a zero tolerance policy. ‘Zero” means none, any way it is read. The Sunshine Coast Mayor and councillors and the Defence of Department understand this and so should employers. Employers can have plans in place for helping those who test positive for drugs and alcohol, but first the substance abuse must be detected.

Drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures need to apply to everyone without exception, and that includes senior management and their managers and supervisors. There is simply no other way to say it. CMM Technology can provide expert policy development guidance. Employers need to follow the lead of companies and organisations that know any substance use at any level in the business presents threats to safety.


1 Chapter 1 - Drugs and Alcohol. (n.d.). Retrieved from Australian Governement - Department of Defence:

2 Kathy Sundstrom. (2013, April 2). Councillors have "no problem" taking drug and alcohol tests. Retrieved from Sunshine Coast Daily: