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Legal highs in the workplace

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Legal highs in the workplace

The issue of ‘legal highs’ is becoming increasingly prevalent as the number of users rises and the access to such is made easier. The side effects of legal highs, whilst largely unknown, have been reported as being worse in some cases than the effects of illegal highs. ‘Legal highs’ which are not classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 vary in their nature, and their side effects are incredibly difficult to understand given the sheer number of different substances available. Given an employer’s duty of care, and the importance of health and safety in the workplace, employers need as wide a remit as possible to manage the issue accordingly.
The easiest and most efficient way of dealing with the issue of legal highs in the workplace and hopefully, reducing the impact of such, is by including reference to legal highs within your Substance Misuse Policy. Substance misuse policies do not need to be limited to illegal drugs and can cover the ingestion of any substance which has a potential impact upon an employee’s ability to undertake their work, including alcohol- a lawful substance. Legal highs should therefore be built into policy documentation accordingly, in the same way as alcohol is. As testing for legal highs is limited employers should ensure that any policy allows them to take action against an employee suspected of being under the influence of a legal high without the requirement for such.
There are hundreds of different legal highs available with new substances being produced daily and so defining each within the body of a policy will not be possible. Any policy should therefore focus on the potential effects of any such substances and set out what is and what is not tolerated by the organisation.
Any updates made to any policies should be communicated to your employees, who should also be advised to be aware of the use of legal highs in the workplace and to report any suspected use of such accordingly. Educating your employees in this regard will assist you in meeting your obligations as far as the duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work.
If you would like to discuss the issue of legal highs in the workplace or, you would like us to review any policy documentation you have in place which deals with the misuse of substances in the workplace please contact us on 01274 864999.

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