Drug Testing in the Workplace
Substance abuse can cause enormous problems in the workplace. Impaired ability, dangerous activity, inappropriate responses are just some of the reasons why drugs in the workplace are a very dangerous mix. As an employer, you have a duty of care under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘WH&S Act’) to provide a safe working environment and as part of this, you are legally allowed to screen employees for drugs and alcohol.
Drug testing in the workplace is normally carried out as part of a wider program that includes policy and procedures, education and, if necessary, individual case management. It’s all about changing behaviour over time, rather than persecution.
Remember: It costs vastly more in the long run to rehabilitate injured employees than to buy testing kits to check your workplace for at-risk workers.
Top 5 reasons you should be drug testing in the workplace
1. Higher level of safety
If you work in an industry such as aviation, mining, merchant navy, transport, building and construction, oil, gas and energy, engineering, food manufacturing and handling, hospital and medical staff, police, armed forces, then drug testing is usually standard procedure and recommended.
2. Fewer work-related accidents
Contrary to what you may believe, recreational users (who form the vast majority of drug users in Australia) after a weekend binge are more likely to cause harm in the workplace than would a regular user.
3. More productive workplaces
Employees affected by drugs can lose focus so, although they appear to be working normally, they’re struggling to get through the day. Identify these employees sooner and make your entire workplace more productive.
4. More harmonious workplace
According to recent studies, workers who are under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs are more likely to verbally or physically abuse colleagues.
Source: National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed findings, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
5. Reduction in absenteeism
Alcohol and drug use is costing Australian businesses $5.2 billion a year in hidden lost productivity and absenteeism.
(Source: Australian Drug Foundation)
Your obligations as an Employer
The following is a brief overview of your obligations. Oz Drug Tests recommends that you speak to your legal department or legal advisers before implementing any drug testing in the workplace.
Under the law, there’s an accepted principle that random testing is an intrusion into a person’s privacy; this intrusion can be justified only on health and safety grounds. That is, you may test for drugs that could impair the person’s ability at work but you may not dictate what your employees ingest during their own time.
When screening for drugs you also need to make sure that you accommodate those employees who are taking legal drugs that may produce positive results. That’s where you need an experienced and licensed data collector.
Any data collectors you employ must have completed a course of instruction for specimen collection, amongst other areas, and must be fully versed in privacy compliance regarding storage and test results. Also, there are legal precedents regarding the use of saliva versus urine testing.
Australian versus US standards
At Oz Drug Tests, we supply kits to Australian standards or to Federal Drug Administration (US) standards. Be aware that some cut-off levels vary markedly from Australia to the US.
In Australia, each type of drug has a cut-off level as specified in Australian Standard 4308: 2008, measured usually as ug/L (micrograms per litre) or ng/ml (nanograms per millilitre); that is, the allowable amount of metabolites in the system.
As well, the cut-off levels for screening are different from reporting levels. Your screening professional can help with information about cut-off levels and what they mean in practical terms.Order your kits online today