Why you need an alcohol and drugs policy on your vessel

While you are loving life onboard your fishing vessel, it’s easy to forget it is also a workplace, particularly at the end of a day, and that brings with it additional responsibilities.

An employer could be found in breach of the general duty to provide a safe workplace that is free from hazards, if injury or harm is suffered as a result of alcohol or other drug use.

Having an alcohol and other drug policy demonstrates that company (and vessel) management is committed to a safe and healthy workplace. Having a clearly defined policy, with supporting procedures in place, will assist the employer to provide a safe workplace, and manage drug and alcohol related issues in the workplace.

The existence of a policy in your safety management system (SMS) also provides a means of informing employees, and other people at the workplace, about what behaviour is acceptable in relation to alcohol.

If a person appears affected, or impaired, by alcohol or drugs, the employer has an obligation to make sure the person (or anyone else) at the workplace is not put at risk.

If a policy exists for this situation, it should be followed.  In the absence of a policy, the employer should determine the most appropriate course of action, which may include making arrangements for the person to get home safely if the vessel has yet to go to sea. If at sea, the worker should be removed from the immediate work area, confined to quarters and monitored regularly. Having a procedure to enable provision of external advice would be encouraged.

It should not be assumed that any observed impairment is caused only by alcohol and/or other drug use. Other impairment factors may include fatigue, medical conditions, chemicals, heat, noise and symptoms of work-related stress.

A guidance note can be found here.