Drug and alcohol management

The Bus Safety Act introduced new obligations relating to drug and alcohol management for bus operators.

If you are an accredited or registered bus operator, you must:

  • Develop a written drug and alcohol management policy for your bus operations 
  • Consult with your bus safety workers (employees and contractors) when developing the policy 
  • Implement and maintain the policy to ensure it is appropriate and up to date.

Bus safety workers should speak to their managers if they have any queries about the policy, or if they are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.

Who does your policy apply to?

Your policy applies to bus drivers when they are driving or about to drive a bus. You may apply the policy to your bus safety workers. This may include people who repair, maintain or test a bus or bus equipment.

What information should your policy contain?

The focus of your policy should be to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with drug and alcohol use relating to your bus operations. Your policy must state:

"A bus driver must not have drugs or alcohol present in his or her blood or breath immediately before or while driving a bus."

In addition to this mandatory requirement, you may include requirements on employees and contractors when performing other bus safety work.

You may require all bus safety workers to:

  • Not have drugs or alcohol present in their blood or breath immediately before or while performing work that may affect the safety of bus services (e.g. repairing/ maintaining or examining/ testing a bus or bus equipment)
  • Be responsible for managing the effects of substances they may be taking (including prescription medicines)
  • Discuss with their manager any drugs they may be taking.

You must also comply with any guidelines we issue.

Testing procedures

It is up to you whether to include testing in your drug and alcohol management policy. If you do, the policy must specify:

  • The circumstances in which a bus safety worker may be tested
  • The testing procedures for detecting alcohol or drugs in blood or breath
  • Who may conduct the tests
  • How the results are to be stored, handled or destroyed
  • That testing should not occur more frequently than an hour before bus safety work is about to be carried out or while it is being carried out, except where there is 'reasonable cause' e.g. if:
    • there is reason to believe the worker is impaired
    • the worker ought to be tested in the interests of safety
    • the worker has been involved in an accident
  • That the purpose is to test for the presence of alcohol and drugs
  • Measures to ensure the results are treated confidentially.

Testing procedures include:

  • For alcohol – using preliminary breath test devices (such as 'Alcotest 80/A, Lion Alcolmeter S-D2 or SD-400PA)
  • For drugs – the procedure for assessing drug impairment is described in the Victoria Government Gazette.

These procedures are listed for the purposes of assessing drug impairment in the rail industry but may also be of general assistance to you.

What should you do first?

  1. Consider your current drug and alcohol policy (if any) – including any requirements you may have under other laws like occupational health and safety legislation.
  2. Consider whether you need to make changes to existing policies given the requirements of the Bus Safety Act.
  3. Consult with your staff as to what drug and alcohol controls they think are necessary to ensure safety.
  4. Settle on the contents of your drug and alcohol management policy, including whether you need to impose additional requirements to the 'zero alcohol and drugs' condition on bus drivers.
  5. Decide how you will implement the 'zero drug and alcohol' condition on bus drivers and any other requirements at your workplace.
  6. Decide how you will maintain and review the policy in light of the changing risks to your bus operations.

What should your bus safety workers do?

Bus safety workers have obligations under the drug and alcohol management policy. You should recommend that they:

  • Read all the labels on their medicines and never use other people's medicines
  • Discuss with their health professional how any medicines may affect their ability
  • Inform their health professional of their obligations under the drug and alcohol management policy, especially before being prescribed new medicine
  • Discuss alternative medicines to those which have potential adverse effects.

What is a drug?

A drug is any substance (other than alcohol) that deprives the person of normal mental or physical faculties (permanently or temporarily).

In the context of bus safety workers, this includes drugs that affect:

  • Mental alertness
  • Vision
  • Coordination
  • Reaction to situations.

These effects can increase the risk of mistakes or cause an incident or accident. The broad definition of drugs means prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, common tranquillisers or stimulants, herbal remedies, or illicit drugs. For a non-exhaustive list of drugs, please refer to the Victorian Government Gazette.

What are the effects of alcohol?

Alcohol may impact a person's normal mental or physical faculties. Like other drugs, this can increase the risk of mistakes or cause an incident or accident. 

Combining alcohol and drugs may increase this risk significantly.

Examples of health professionals

  • General practitioners (GPs), including company doctors
  • Medical specialists (e.g. psychiatrists)
  • Dentists and nurses (who administer injections and medications)
  • Pharmacists
  • Alternative health professionals (e.g. herbalists).