The prevalence of illicit drug use in Australia’s mining industry has become a concern for many people with research showing that if you have worked in the mining industry in 2010 you were eight percent more likely to use drugs for non-medical purpose as compared to 2001 (study conducted by Curtin University). However if put into perspective, when the outcomes are compared against all industries mining was no different, and Hospitality was by far the worst.
It seems that amid fears of an epidemic of illicit drug use in the mining industry, the reality is this false perception has enacted a more regimented and open safety culture within the sector. Figures released in 2015 within the coal sector (Hunter Valley region) show that only approximately 0.21% of drug and alcohol test conducted over a 12-month period returned a non-negative result for methamphetamine.
Other factors need to be considered as contributors towards illicit drug use within the mining sector and whether these will influence or escalate future use. Lifestyle factors such as the ability to earn higher wages, Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) workers, irregular and long hours, being isolated and bored, living away from families, and the increased rate of depression may all contribute to miners turning to alcohol and other drugs for solace and self-medication.
With mining organisations taking a “zero tolerance” approach to drugs and alcohol in the workplace, implementing a clear and well-developed drug and alcohol policy, organisations can maintain a safe and productive workplace for miners.