A truck driver who refused to provide a urine sample for a drug and alcohol test was terminated from Tasmanian Freight Services, trading as Tasfreight. The employee appealed this decision claiming the dismissal was harsh and unreasonable however, the Fair Work Commission determined he was justifiably dismissed for serious misconduct.

The problem arose when Tasfreight’s monitoring system found the truck driver in the wrong location. The compliance manager questioned the driver over his location, and he said ‘I don’t know how I got here. I must have zoned out’. When the truck driver returned to the depot the manager informed him, he needed to have a drug and alcohol test. The driver’s reaction was agitated, he refused to get out of his truck, for several minutes he hit the steering wheel and said, ‘you’ve got to be ******* joking’.  When he entered the manager’s car to be transported for the test, he refused to put on his seatbelt. This behaviour increased the manager’s concern over the employee’s fitness to drive.

When they arrived at the medical clinic, they were informed a urine sample was required. The driver claimed he did not hear the instruction and instead went to the toilet before seeing the doctor. Afterwards, he was unable to provide the required urine sample. For three hours the employee maintained he was unable to provide a urine sample and refused to drink water when recommended by the manager.

The manager informed the driver if he did not provide a sample his employment would be terminated under the company’s drug and alcohol policy, which outlines failing to produce a sample as a ‘not negative’ result. Copies of the drug and alcohol policy were provided to employees upon employment.

The Fair Work Commission determined the dismissal was justifiable as the employer had reasonable grounds to be concerned the driver might have used drugs or alcohol and had a reasonably implemented appropriate policy to deal with it.

This case highlights the importance of maintaining safety standards, policies and procedures in industries that are safety-critical such as heavy road transport. Tasfreight’s policies and proper enforcement of them improved the safety of the workplace for employees and the public. Safety procedures in similar high-risk industries such as farming and manufacturing are just as critical to maintain compliance, reduce risk and prevent action against your company.

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