Whitehaven News

Sunday, December 17, 2000

SELLAFIELD employees face random drink and drugs test on the nuclear site from the start of next year.

But director of operations Brian Watson, who could himself be tested, says BNFL will seek to help - not sack - anyone caught under the influence.

The tests which start on January 2 will cover all 10,000 people working on the site. Any one of BNFL's 6,400 employees, 1,300 agency staff and another 2,000 contractors can be stopped randomly and asked to do the test.

The breathalyser will not be used. Both drink and drugs testing will be done by urine sampling.

BNFL is bringing in a Home Office-approved service to do the analysis independently. Later on the site's own occupational health department may take over the duties.

Mr Watson said: "It will be unannounced. Anyone looking at us, stakeholders and the communities, believe that people operating a nuclear facility should not be doing so affected by drugs or alcohol.

"Random testing is the key. We will be picking and choosing different times and periods when the testing takes place. Employees won't know when they are coming to work that they are going to be subjected to a test."

However, Mr Watson stressed it "won't be instant dismissal" for workers or managers caught under the influence of drink or drugs.

He said: "The intention is first of all to find out whether any individuals have a problem that needs to be addressed, to help them with that problem, but if the same problems recur then it might be different.

"It is always possible for anyone to come on to the site, having been out the night before, not to understand they might be slightly over the limit.

"Drugs are a bit more serious but we would seek, as a general rule, to help people. That's what we aim to do."

Anyone showing positive results from the tests would be escorted off the site.

"In circumstances where somebody blatantly disregards a set of site rules it can result in a dismissal or disciplinary process," said Mr Watson.

l Sellafield employees face instant dismissal in the site's new get-tough non-compliance policy. Mr Watson told the Sellafield Local Liaison Committee: "There are very clear indications that some of the relatively simple things we are focusing on are beginning to have a significant and powerful effect."