01. Employer Guide Introduction

Joshua Easton WHS

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Drug use in the community and in the workplace is becoming more prevalent on a global basis and Australia is no better or worse than most countries in facing this dilemma on how to effectively deal with issues that can have a major impact on an individual and which can also then be transferred into the workplace with dramatic negative outcomes.

Drug testing in the workplace has been a contentious issue and, although it still remains so, the law is rapidly changing.  Recently, the Building Code has been amended to require construction sites to undertake mandatory drug and alcohol testing.  This is a LEGAL REQUIREMENT FOR ALL COMMONWEALTH FUNDED CONSTRUCTION SITES (refer Page 13 for details).

It is anticipated that this legal requirement for construction sites will be rolled out to include other industries – electrical, mining, engineering, hospitality and others – and probably will extend to become a legal requirement for the vast majority of businesses at some stage in the future.  Apart from the legal requirements applicable to drug use in the workplace beginning to be enacted, there are currently safety requirements arising from Work Health & Safety obligations – including a danger to the worker and other workers in the workplace.  Failure to provide a safe place of work subjects the business, officers and even workers to huge fines where breaches are found to have occurred.

This Guide shows how to recognise if an employee (or other, e.g. contractor) may be affected by drugs, and what options you have as an employer to manage the situations that may occur as a result.

The range and use of substances, stimulants and drugs both legal and illegal is almost beyond comprehension, and Law Enforcement agencies and Governments across the world are constantly battling to stay ahead of the use and abuse of illegal and legal substances in the community in general.

There is no particular demographic that may denote an individual’s propensity to use drugs, nor is there any universal answer to the complex and vexed questions that drug use and abuse provide to the community in general.

This Employer Guide is aimed at providing practical useful information and tools to assist an employer to maintain a safe and healthy workplace and to manage with the least possible risk some of the issues they may face with their employees.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of this subject is that in many cases the employer may be unaware that an employee or employees are under the influence of drugs either legal or illegal until there is an incident where the drug use becomes apparent.

Some examples of incidents related to drug use are:

  • Erratic or violent behaviour towards others
  • Restlessness, twitching and irritability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Accidents caused through drug use
  • Absenteeism
  • Loss of productivity
  • Poor customer relations
  • Theft and crime in general

The issues associated with drug use in the workplace raises a myriad of problems for the employer, as quite often an employee may use drugs in their own time while not at work but still arrive at work under the influence of those drugs which obviously has implications for both parties.

The term “recreational drug use” is often used to explain an individual’s choice to use a drug such as MDMA or Ecstasy, Cocaine or Marijuana and is often seen as their right to choose to do so in their own time.

However, it must be acknowledged that illegal drugs are simply illegal drugs and until the laws associated with the current range of illegal substances is changed the purchase, use, distribution and sale of these drugs is a criminal offence.

Other forms of alcohol and other drug use include; experimental, situational, bingeing, medicinal or therapeutic and all have the ability to affect an employee in some way.

Employers are bound by various forms of legislation to ensure a safe workplace for their employees and to minimise risk where possible, having a drug affected employee at the workplace increases the risk profile of any organisation exponentially depending upon the nature of the work and the level of drug use and effects on the employee and other.

Illegal Drugs

The following drugs are some of the drugs that are currently illegal in Australia.

Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making or selling them, or driving under their influence and in some states the possession and or sale of drug related paraphernalia such as Bongs is also illegal.

This list is not exhaustive but reflects the main drugs which are currently available and in use in Australia.

  • Cannabis, including some synthetic cannabinoids
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate)
  • Heroin
  • Ice (crystal methamphetamine)
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • Mephedrone
  • PCP (phencyclidine)
  • PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) and PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine).

Legal Drugs

Then there is the list of legal drugs which may be in use in the workplace which include:

  • Alcohol
  • Pharmaceutical drugs such as; paracetamol, aspirin, codeine, ibuprofen, oxycodone benzodiazepines (tranquillisers and sleeping pills)
  • Caffeine (most common causes from excessive use of caffeinated energy drinks)
  • Tobacco
  • Methadone and naloxone (under recognised treatment programs)
  • Other medication prescribed by a Medical Practitioner
  • Some forms of hallucinogens synthetically manufactured to replicate other drugs with slightly altered molecular structures keeping them outside existing laws and sold under names such as Bath Salts or Potpourri.

While this is an indicative list only, the main drug of choice in Australian workplaces remains alcohol.

Recent findings detailed below published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that alcohol remains at the top of the table when dealing with drug abuse.

Key findings:

  • The majority of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol, however the proportion of people drinking in excess of lifetime and single occasion risk guidelines has been declining since 2010 and continues to decline.
  • On a per capita basis there were 9.4 litres of pure alcohol available for consumption per person in 2016–17, down from the amount in 2015–16 (9.7 litres) and is the lowest level in over 50 years (9.4 litres in 1961-62).
  • In 2016, about 1 in 6 (17.4%) Australians aged 14 and over put themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol in the last 12 months.
  • Between 1961–62 to 2016–17, the proportion of apparent consumption of different alcoholic beverages have changed substantially with decreases in the consumption of beer (from 75% to 39%) and increases in the consumption of wine (from 12.4% to 38%).
  • The proportion of people aged 14 and over who exceed the lifetime risk guideline by consuming on average more than two standard drinks per day, decreased from 18.2% in 2013 to 17.1% in 2016.
  • Around 1 in 3 (37%) Australians aged 14 and over exceeded the single occasion risk guidelines by consuming more than four standard drinks on one sitting.
  • The proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over who exceeded lifetime risk guidelines for alcohol consumption decreased between 2008 and 2014–15 (19% compared with 15%; non age-standardised proportions).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (50%), young people (42%) and people with mental illness (18.9%) are more likely to exceed the lifetime risk guidelines.
  • In 2016–17, alcohol was among the most commonly detected substance across all jurisdictions and is particularly high in regional areas.

The National Drug Research Institute’s analysis of alcohol-attributable deaths and hospitalisations in Australia estimates that in 2015, 5,785 Australians died of alcohol-attributable disease and injury.

In relation to the use of illegal drugs it is estimated that in excess of 15% of Australian have used an illicit drug in the past 12 months with no indication that this figure is declining, unfortunately it is likely to continue to increase.

The most common drug used by people 14 years and over is cannabis.

It has also been found that people who use cannabis or methamphetamine are likely to use these drugs on a regular basis with Ecstasy or cocaine more likely to be used infrequently.

The use and misuse of prescription opioid drugs is steadily increasing in Australia and the main drugs that fit into this category of prescription opioids are described in the schedule below:

Schedule 4 (S4) – Prescription Only Medicine Codeine (after February 2018), dihydrocodeine, pholcodeine, dextromethorphan in moderate doses (except in low-dose cough preparations), dextropropoxyphene (at low doses), diphenoxylate at moderate doses, and tramadol.

Schedule 8 (S8) – Controlled Drug Buprenorphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphone, oxycodone, talpentadol and pethidine. Other opioids in S8 include: acetyldihydrocodeine, acetylmorphines, benzylmorphine, dextropropoxyphene (at high doses), dihydromorphine, diphenoxylate (at high doses), dihydrocodeine, hydromorphinol, levorphanol, methyldihydromorphine, morphine methobromide, morphine-N-oxide, norcodeine, normethadone and oxymorphone.

In Australia in 2016–17, 3.1 million people had 1 or more prescriptions dispensed for opioids (most commonly for oxycodone); about 40,000 people used Heroin; and about 715,000 people used pain-killers/analgesics and pharmaceutical opioids for illicit or non-medical purposes.

With these types of figures, it is unlikely that most workplaces are not involved with people internally or externally that are under the influence of drugs at some time during their working day.

The challenge for employers is how to deal with this problem in a practical and legally enforceable manner.

This Guide cannot possibly cover every legal and industrial circumstance that may occur but it is designed to assist employers understand their obligations and to provide a practical easy to follow process to minimise the risks associated with the use of drugs in the workplace.

In many cases it may be very difficult for an employer to be aware of the use of drugs by an employee in the workplace and the signs and symptoms vary between individuals, the drugs involved and the symptoms and behaviours of the individuals concerned.

The steps on how to approach any employee who you believe is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and how to deal with the testing and discipline matters will be covered later in this Guide in the policy section.

The following examples have been complied to assist employers dealing with some of the more apparent drug use scenarios.


The use of tobacco and tobacco products in the workplace is often seen as benign but tobacco can affect everybody differently and can cause significant health risks over time.

Passive smoking in the workforce is where an employee or employees in the vicinity of a smoker are affected by the passive cigarette smoke of another employee to their detriment.

People with medical conditions such as asthma and associated illnesses or women who are pregnant may be particularly affected by passive cigarette smoke.

Therefore, passive smoking also needs to be addressed and employers should have in place a suitable smoking policy in the workplace which clearly sets out where and when smoking is allowed if it is allowed as many workplaces ban smoking on their premises (policy attached at Page 31).

Many large employers have implemented successful quit programs to provide incentive to employees to quit smoking with overall benefits for all.


Alcohol is by the far the most prevalent of the drugs found in the community and the workforce and needs to be treated in a consistent and practical manner.

If you believe that an employee is affected by alcohol at work some of the following symptoms may be prevalent:

  • Red, bleary eyes
  • Drowsiness
  • Stumbling and general instability
  • Smell of alcohol on the breath

If you believe that the use of alcohol by one or more employees is an issue at your workplace one of the most efficient methods to detect offenders is to test employees before commencing work to ensure that they have a zero reading.

There are numerous devices available for purchase which will effectively carry out this function and as long as they are recalibrated every six months and they comply with the Australian Standard AS 3547 for alcohol breath testers they should be defensible if challenged.

If you have a zero alcohol reading for your workplace, there are also indicator tests readily available which can relatively accurately detect the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream.  The difficulty with these cheap disposable test strips is that they may not be used as evidence to support any disciplinary action taken as a result of the test indication.  If an employee has used mouthwash recently, or uses certain types of chewing gum, recently kissed a person who was intoxicated or even had alcohol trapped in dentures, all of these examples can provide a false breath test reading.

The only real option to confirm a positive result is to have the employee to agree to be transported to the nearest medical centre or licenced collection agency or laboratory to undertake a blood test.

One of the issues to be aware of is that testing for blood alcohol concentrations are time critical and unless a blood test can be done quickly the alcohol concentration may be diminished or undetectable.

Based on the level of use and impact on the employee and workplace, treatments options and assistance may be offered by the employer under certain circumstances.

Specific jobs such as truck driving require that a zero alcohol blood level reading is required and employees who can be proven to exceed this reading may be terminated.

The use of alcohol in the workplace and any accompanying workplace policy must cover all employees where possible and be uniform and fair.

It is counter- productive to enforce restrictive alcohol restrictions on one group of employees when for example sales staff or management continue to drink at lunchtimes and at functions and return to work.

It is also important to allow the flexibility for workplace sanctioned functions to take place without breaching your policies.

One prime example is work related Christmas parties which may be held on site or off site.

The festive season can be a happy and joyful time but it can also be a period when unruly staff behaviour can ruin careers and damage working and business relationships.

The typical issues are, sexual harassment, fighting, drink driving, bullying (abusing work colleagues and Management) and the use of banned substances.

For some reason the annual Christmas party can bring out the worst behaviour in otherwise good employees, the good news is that with some foresight and leadership a lot of potential problems can be avoided.

With the large amount of indiscretions that may occur at these types of functions it is important to advise attending employees of the arrangements and the conduct that is expected of them at the function.

The supply of unlimited alcohol without restrictions and the lack of suitable transport arrangements can leave an employer at risk where an incident or accident occurs and the employee or other parties take action against the employer.

The following information if provided to employees can substantially reduce the risk of such action at Christmas parties and can be amended to cover other functions.

I suggest that if you are holding a staff Christmas Party that prior to the event all staff are notified either by email prior to the event or at the event by a Senior Manager that:

“While the organisation welcomes you to the annual Christmas party, you are reminded that all attendees are required to abide by normal acceptable social and legal conventions and laws, including applicable Company Policies.

This includes your treatment of other staff and your behaviour in general, and while the organisation is supplying some alcoholic beverages, it is your responsibility to ensure that you drink and drive responsibly and that you remain within legal limits.

We hope that you are able to enjoy the end of year celebrations and thank you for your contributions over the last year.”

There have been many successful cases against companies who do not take reasonable steps to ensure that their employees and families are not put in harm’s way during Christmas celebrations and a few simple steps as outlined above will greatly assist in ensuring you have trouble free party.

Some other tips are:

  • no unlimited alcohol passes
  • beware of transferring party attendees to another venue for more drinks
  • lead by example
  • keep your shoes and shirts on
  • deal with bad behaviour quickly and authoritatively
  • limit physical activities to simple tasks

This advice can be amended to suit any work function where alcohol is present.

It is important to allow for the ability for workplace functions to be approved and held at management discretion in your workplace policies.

Pharmaceutical/Therapeutic Drugs

It is extremely difficult for any employer to discover whether an employee may be abusing prescription drugs while at work and any approach to any employee you may have concerns over needs to be handled discreetly and professionally.

Privacy issues must be taken into account and normal industrial relations and legal boundaries adhered to, but any employer has the right to request a meeting with an employee and at that meeting raise the concern that you may have witnessed abnormal behaviour from the employee recently, and ask if there is any reason for the behaviour/absenteeism etc. which the employer should be made aware of, and if there is anything that you as an employer that you can assist with.

If the employee does provide information that they are taking a prescribed medication for an existing medical condition or injury, and volunteers this information, you may be able to assist them with flexible work options to assist their recovery and to monitor their progress.

If they admit that they have a drug dependence problem and are seeking help, the employer may consider offering treatment options and a monitoring process to assist the employee.

Illegal Drugs

The most common illegal drugs encountered in the workplace include, but are by no means limited to, cannabis and its derivatives, methamphetamine, Ecstasy and cocaine.

Certain industries seem to attract the use of a particular drug, and in some industries methamphetamines are widely used to increase performance and to compensate for long hours and repetitive tasks.

The impact of this type of drug use can be catastrophic and may lead to significant damages to employees, equipment and business, including criminal charges and quite often large insurance claims against the company.

As with other drugs, employers, in the absence or reliable testing methods and equipment, are unable to determine whether an employee is under the influence of an illicit drug while at work and can only look for visible signs of impairment which would give them the opportunity to question an employee about their symptoms and/or behavioural issues.

Investigation Procedures

If you suspect that an employee is affected by drugs it is imperative to have sufficient relevant evidence to support your observations before taking any form of disciplinary action.

It is important to remain focussed on the issue of alcohol or other drugs in the workplace and the employee’s job performance.

This is not a moral issue and discussion about personal matters may detract from the main issue.

Try not to be distracted about a person’s rights to drink alcohol or take drugs.  The issue always comes back to workplace safety and the employee’s ability to perform their role as required in a safe and acceptable manner.

If you are making allegations about an employee’s performance through their mannerisms or other indicators, it is preferable to have your suspicions witnessed by another person and the state and condition of the employee recorded at the time.

Drug Testing

Drug testing in the workplace remains a contentious issue and will continue to attract resistance where employees are reluctant to participate in the testing process voluntarily.

Many large companies, especially in the mining industry, stipulate that they have a zero drug policy in place and all new employees during their induction process are formally advised of the drug policy and any associated testing process and provided with this policy with all of the other relevant employee related policies.

The testing processes vary across companies and industries with the options being:

  • Incident related
  • Random drug testing before commencing work
  • Breath analysis before commencing work (especially machine operators and drivers)
  • Blood testing

Each workplace is different but there is still an obligation on employers or Persons Carrying Out a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) under the Work Health and Safety legislation to provide a safe place of work, understand the work being performed, identify the risks and mitigate the risks as far as possible.

This includes the state of employees and their ability to perform the work that they have been assigned.

There is also a requirement for employees to be in a fit and proper state to perform this work and failure to do so may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal and possible criminal charges depending upon the circumstances.

Where many employers are challenged successfully is in the manner and treatment of a suspected breach or incident which results in disciplinary action and/or dismissal by not following acceptable processes and procedures which stand up to challenge.

It is not possible in this Guide to cover the entire legal and industrial relations framework and law that applies in these circumstances, and in all cases if you think that there are legal issues associated with any employee or disciplinary process associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs it is advisable to seek professional legal advice.

However, there are some basic steps that if followed, will support your actions and increase the likelihood that if your actions are challenged, that the challenge will be unsuccessful.

These steps include having a practical workplace policy in place which specifically deals with the use of alcohol and other drugs (policy contained in page 21) and having suitable testing and monitoring steps in place which are consistent with the policy.

As with all employee polices, unless the policies have been provided to the employees concerned, and the employees have formally acknowledged that they have read and understood these policies, then the application of these policies may be subject to challenge.

Some industries have mandated drug testing responsibilities and the following Press Release from the Federal Government outlines the new requirement for drug testing on building and construction sites which was introduced on 15 September, 2015.

The following Press Release is the latest example of regulatory intervention to deal with the drug problem in the workplace:


“Government Building Code now requires drug and alcohol testing policies on construction sites”

Friday 18 September 2015 Media Release

Senator the Hon Eric Abetz

  • Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Tasmania

The Australian Government has today introduced amendments to the Building Code to ensure higher standards of workplace safety for construction sites.

The Building Code will now require drug and alcohol testing on construction sites.

The construction industry is a high risk industry where the risks associated with the use of heavy machinery, mobile equipment, working in congested areas and working from heights, are accentuated by the effects of alcohol and drug use.

Fair Work Building and Construction will be responsible for auditing contractors to ensure those subject to the Code have in place a fitness for work policy that is compliant with the Building Code.

Contractors who are subject to the Code will have 28 days to ensure they have a compliant policy in place.  The requirements under the Code to test for the presence of alcohol and drugs are modelled on those that previously applied under the former Victorian Construction Code but which were regrettably removed by the Andrews Labor Government.

The Government remains strongly committed to the success and safety of the building industry by re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission as well as using the Building Code to achieve safer and more efficient workplaces.

“It is essential that workers on construction sites do not present a risk to themselves, their co-workers, and the public by having drugs and alcohol in their systems,” Minister for Employment Senator Eric Abetz said.

“Safety is a paramount consideration on construction sites.  It is simply an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of employees and the public to have workers affected by drugs or alcohol on construction sites.”

“The Government is committed to the Building Code to ensure taxpayer funded sites operate safely and efficiently, and projects are delivered on time and on budget,” Minister Abetz concluded.

This legislation commenced a significant step in Australian Industrial Relations and Government recognition of the risks associated with drugs in the workforce and initiatives and regulatory responsibilities on employers are likely to increase in the future.

With the proliferation of drug use and abuse in the community and workplace it is unlikely that this type of regulatory action will remain confined to any one industry and laws and regulations will need to keep pace with the issues at hand.

A spate of recent deaths at music festivals in Australia due to drug misuse has promoted public debate on pill testing at some entertainment venues, and some State Governments are considering introducing trial pill testing options for some recreational activities.

Unfortunately, because of the complex nature of drug use in all of its forms, it is very difficult to provide generic advice that will cover all of the legalities and problems associated with the problems.

This Guide is provided to assist employers in identifying and dealing with drug use and drug testing in the workplace in a practical and professional manner which should if followed correctly assist them in identifying drug related risks in the workplace and managing those risks and reduce the likelihood of their actions being successfully challenged.

Like all employee issues communication and training are crucial to building a well-informed platform to support any new policies and procedures which are to be introduced into the workplace.

There are areas of privacy that employees are entitled to protect and any invasion or perceived invasion of these privacy matters may attract Union or Legal challenges to certain actions.

Some of the more contentious employer actions are the introduction of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance or other forms of surveillance and investigations that intrude into the private lives of individuals outside the workplace.

This is arguably the most difficult area for employers and needs to be carefully considered before acting upon as any inappropriate or irresponsible actions may have legal repercussions.

The dilemma remains that an employee may use alcohol and other drugs in their own time and resent any interference from their employer into their private life and choices.

While this view is understandable from an individual’s perspective, the facts remain that the employer is entitled to ensure that all employees attend work in a fit and safe state to perform their duties and to not be a risk to themselves or others.

It also remains that certain activities carry legally enforceable penalties such as drink driving, and in some cases attract significant criminal penalties especially where illegal drugs are involved.

Where an accident or injury occurs at work, the presence of alcohol or other drugs, if found to have been a contributing factor, may dramatically affect the outcome of any investigation and any insurance claims associated with the accident.

If the employer has introduced methods to limit drug use in the workplace, combined with policies and procedures to minimise the risk, these factors should assist in reducing the employer’s liability in these circumstances.

Therefore, if an employer seeks to maximise employee output and reduce the risk of possible drug use in the workplace, some form of monitoring or testing may be considered.

Steps to Introduce Drug Testing in the Workplace

The first step in this process is to assess your risk.

If you are involved in building and construction your risk assessment will be different that in retail or hospitality but the basic principles remain the same:

  1. Identify any possible areas where you are of the view that drug use may be or may become an issue
  2. Identify any legal or regulatory issues which you must comply with such as zero alcohol level for truck drivers or drug testing on Commonwealth funded or part funded building and construction sites
  3. Decide on which method of testing that you prefer with the options being:
    • Random testing
    • Mandatory testing
    • Incident related testing
  1. Identify which method of testing you intend to implement:
    • Breathalyser (may require follow up blood tests)
    • Urine test
    • Saliva test
    • Blood test (invasive and expensive)

This is an important decision as urine testing can detect prior use of drugs whereas saliva testing is more incident based, and alcohol testing is immediate and detects current levels of alcohol in the employee’s system.

Urine test Chain of Custody procedures are often challenged and need to be done correctly to be relied upon.

Employees may argue that although they have a positive indication through a urine test, it only proves that they have used drugs in the past 4-6 weeks and does not prove impairment.

The basic premise of a drug testing regime is to deter drug use at the workplace to increase workplace health and safety compliance, and to reduce risk and accident frequency rather than detect drug users in general.

For example, for high risk machinery operators or drivers the level may be mandatorily set by the employer at zero.

Each employer must decide at which level they wish to set their drug use standards and legal advice may be required to assist with this process.

Australian Standards Drugs in Oral Fluid AS 4760 and AS Specimen Collection AS 4308 provide some technical guidance on testing collection and handling requirements, but due to the fact that most laboratories and requirements under these standards require specific technical standards relating to the sample collection, chain of custody and the accreditation qualifications of the collector, the process can be prohibitive for most employers to perform properly.

The most effective way to deal with the technical aspects of collection and handling is after an employee has provided a positive indication from a workplace drug test, to then have the employee attend an accredited collection centre as soon as possible which can be a commercial laboratory, medical centre or other accredited collection agency and provide a urine, saliva or blood sample for a laboratory analysis.

  1. Identify what you are going to test for, e.g. alcohol, methamphetamines, cannabis products.
  2. Explain to the employees:
  • the testing process
  • how and when it will be implemented
  • what happens if there is a positive indication
  • what happens in the time between the first test and the return of the Laboratory test
  • what happens if the laboratory test is negative
  • what happens if the laboratory test is positive

* See Flowchart on page 20 and Letter of Admission on page 32.

  1. Prepare a suitable employee policy document that fits with your other policies and procedures. This policy must align with your existing disciplinary policies and procedures and Work Health and Safety policies and procedures.
  2. Communicate with your employees and contractors and provide them with the applicable policies and procedures. It is crucial to explain to employees the reasons why you intend to introduce this type of policy and what the ramifications are if there is a breach or breaches of these policies.
  3. Once the policies and procedures are provided to the employees, allow a reasonable timeframe for them to review and consider them and seek advice from their legal representative or Union.
  4. If valid concerns are raised through this review process, consider the responses and amend the policies and procedures where agreed (seek legal advice if required).
  5. Apply the policies and procedures and whatever testing method you have chosen practically and professionally.

Testing Options

Depending upon your workplace and circumstances, consideration needs to be given to which type of testing you would prefer to implement.

The main choices are:

  • Random testing
  • Mandatory testing
  • Incident related testing

Random Testing

Random testing is particularly useful for large workforces with multi-disciplined employees and can be conducted whenever the employer feels that the testing process would be most effective.

Random testing may involve a breathalyser to detect alcohol for drivers and/or machine operators, or a urine or saliva test for illicit drugs or both depending upon your requirements.

Random testing can be very useful as a deterrent as employees can never predict when they may be tested and the consequences, which may be disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, are serious.

This type of testing can positively restrict recreational drug use by employees and can also pick up positive tests across a sample of employees or worksites which could then lead to further examination and possible training or intervention to deal with and reduce drug use in that location.

Mandatory Testing

Mandatory testing is an effective tool where it is imperative that a zero reading for alcohol and other drugs is essential for many roles such as truck drivers, workers on building and construction sites, machinery operators, medical practitioners and other professional roles.

It is difficult to list all of these categories and the examples above are only indicative as each employer has a different requirement and risk profile.

The risk profile for a mining or transport company is different from a retailer or restaurant but in effect their mutually required outcome is to reduce accidents and risk.

Some employers utilise a breath analysis device to ensure that all employees are alcohol free prior to allowing them to operate their vehicle or machinery.

Other employers use this process every morning before an employee can enter onto a construction or mine site.

Other options for mandatory testing include the option of scheduled test dates such as once a month, but this option has the distinct disadvantage of allowing employees to reduce or stop their drug use in the period leading up to the test date.

Another very effective method to detect possible drug use is to require all new employees to pass a drug test prior to commencing employment, and then combining this requirement with a random drug testing regime.

Incident Related

An incident related drug testing regime can be effective in assisting with behavioural and/or accident or incident related issues in the workplace.

If an employee appears to be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs they can be requested to undertake a drug test if your workplace policy allows it.

Some of the more basic assessment indicators which would precipitate an employer’s suspicions are:

  • Red or watery eyes
  • Smell of alcohol or cannabis on breath and/or clothing
  • Lethargy
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression, with violent outbursts toward others
  • Out of character behaviour
  • Concerns expressed by other employees

If in circumstances where there has been an accident or injury at work it can be in the employer’s interest to have the employee or employees involved undertake a drug test where practicable.

Many workplace polices stipulate that if an employee is intoxicated while involved in a vehicular accident that results in the insurance claim/s on the work vehicle or vehicles being denied, then the employee responsible is liable to pay the costs.

Without some form of proof of this intoxication it is difficult to implement this type of policy.