Taking the Negative Out of the Message

Saliva Drug TestA series of studies have been conducted over the last couple years that have dealt with the effectiveness of public and other messaging intended to change behaviours. Targeted behaviours include teenage sex, smoking, binge drinking, youthful alcohol consumption, and of course, drug use. The results have a common theme: negative messaging is not effective. Employers can take away an important lesson from these studies that are applicable to the workplace. The lesson is this: negatively framed drug and alcohol policies are counterproductive.

There are two aspects to this discussion. First, a poorly written policy that is also ill-conceived will not be taken seriously by workers and could make the employer more susceptible to claims that the employer did not exercise proper duty of care should someone get injured or even killed on the job. Second, a negatively worded policy that comes across as threatening, such as implying immediate job loss or loss of pay should someone test positive for a substance as a result of a drug or alcohol test, will be resented. In both cases, workplace morale is damaged.

Respectful and Helpful

Klinger, Limited in Australia, a manufacturer and distributor of gas and fluid sealing solutions and member of the Klinger Group of Independent Companies, posted their Drug & Alcohol Policy online. It is model policy in tone in that it first focuses on the policy benefits for workers. The purpose of policy begins with the statement that, “Klinger Limited aims to provide and maintain a workplace environment that not only protects the health and safety of all workplace participants whilst at work, but also facilitates a productive workplace.”1 In the next two statements, the policy points out that workers must treat each other respectfully to promote a safe and productive workplace and that workplace drug and alcohol use impairs the ability of workers to perform duties safely and efficiently for themselves and for co-workers, clients, and anyone else they interact with on the job.

The positive message is then reinforced with this statement, “The purpose of this Policy is to reduce the likelihood of injury, damage and/or other negative effects resulting from alcohol and/or drug use and/or abuse in the work environment.” Clearly, the company has developed a drug and alcohol policy that is meant to help workers succeed in the workplace and is not meant to serve as a disciplinary policy.

Interpreting Messages

Intimidating workers or making them fearful is not a good approach. The studies on messaging have proven that people do not respond well to negatively framed messages. A recent study reported in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors scientifically reinforced this fact. Conducted by researchers from Indiana University and Wayne State University in the U.S., neuroimaging techniques were used to examine how the brain of substance dependent individuals respond to public messaging that used negative phrasing like, “Drugs are bad for you,” and “Just say no,”. The researchers wanted to pinpoint how neural mechanisms involved in risky decision making responded to negative messaging. The results indicated that the area of the brain that typically assesses risk is functioning at a lower level in people who are dependent on substances. They interpret messages emphasising loss differently than someone who is not drug or alcohol dependent. The researchers plan on continuing their study of messaging and will now begin working on identifying how positive messaging influences neural mechanisms.2

It is a good idea to regularly review the drug and alcohol policy and ensure that it sends a positive message that maintaining worker safety, health, and productivity is the focus. The research already supports the fact that negative messaging can produce undesirable results and most likely will one day prove positive messaging stimulates neural networks in the right way.

The drug and alcohol policy should be well-written, begin on a positive note, and incorporate policies on random worker testing for substance use. CMM (http://cmm.com.au/) supplies stringently tested products that build worker faith in testing results through reliability and accuracy.

References

1 Klinger, Limited. (n.d.). Klinger BMS Policies – Management & Administration, PL620-1100, Drug & Alcohol Policy. Retrieved from Klinger, Limited: http://www.klinger.com.au/documents/034_PL620-1100Alcohol_Drug_AbusePolicy.pdf

2 Indiana University (2012, November 26). Neuroimaging study: Negative messages less effective on those who are substance dependent. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2012/11/121126110927.htm

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Making Safety and Health a Priority Promotes a Substance

In this discussion, a different perspective is taken for a moment. Instead of only considering worker behaviours, the discussion centres onUrine Drug Test employer behaviours. Though using drugs or alcohol in the workplace is a personal decision, albeit a poor one, the employer should understand that a drug and alcohol testing program should be a layer on a foundation of employee respect and fair management practices. The program is not something that is simply added without considering the organisational culture and how the program fits in it as a positive and supportive component to worker and business success.

All employers have a duty of care to protect the occupational health and safety of employees through management policies and performance. Many managers tend to view drug and alcohol testing as a legally required, standalone program, when it should be viewed in as a component of a larger safety and wellness program. The broad occupational health and safety (OHS) elements of business success include developing a system for managing OHS, differentiating between a policy and a procedure, integrating OHS planning with the business plan, allocating responsibilities and accountabilities to staff, and developing a system for communicating information to workers.1

A drug and alcohol policy and supporting testing procedures are integral to each one of these elements of business success as pieces of the larger picture. For example, there should be a well developed policy promoting a substance free workplace, a random drug and alcohol testing program that represents administration of the policies, clear definition of the role of drug and alcohol policies and procedures as a component of worker wellness and safety programs, staff training that ensures fair application of procedures and enhances a supportive workplace environment, and a worker training program for conveyance of the policies and procedures.

Employees as Stakeholders in Substance Free Workplace and Community

A simple way of looking at this concept is that a wellness program failing to address substance use and abuse as a health and safety issue is also failing to meet the elements of business success. In fact, successful businesses that embrace their duty to promote worker safety use a strategy in which employees act as role models and actively participate on safety committees and accept responsibility for developing and communicating ongoing training programs. The programs include educating workers on the safety risks associated with the use of drugs and alcohol. Engaging employees in a collaborative manner sends a clear message that workers are stakeholders in workplace safety and have a duty to follow safe work practices and procedures, and refusing to use drugs and alcohol in the workplace is one of those practices.

Beyond safety issues, the workplace is increasingly being viewed as a setting in which a large number of people can be exposed to health promotion activities that have community, and not just workplace, relevance. The reason is obvious – a large percent of the population is employed. Proponents of using the workplace as a public information intervention site argue that this approach assists employers with complying with occupational safety and health as much as it helps the broader community.

Taking a Broader View

For example, there is evidence in many cases that workplace factors contribute to high risk alcohol consumption. Employers are interested in exercising their duty of care and minimising harm, whilst public education programs aim to change behaviours and workplace environments. However, there is no single reason that can be named to explain why people over-consume alcohol and no single effective response. Patterns of alcohol consumption are tied to work and personal life; therefore, it makes sense to view the employer’s duty of care and workplace safety in the broadest sense.2

Perhaps in the final analysis, this is merely a sophisticated way of saying that work lives and personal lives intersect, so workplace education measures addressing alcohol and drug use makes perfect sense. The employer fulfils a duty of care, whilst promoting workplace safety and responsible community behaviour. The reward is a healthier workforce and a safer workplace, and both contribute to business success. Workers take their cues from employers, which means employers must clearly convey drug and alcohol policies and procedures which define performance accountability and management expectations. The message sent to employees must be absolutely clear: health and safety is a priority.

CMM Technology at http://cmm.com.au/ helps facilitate OHS and operational objectives by providing employers with quality drug and alcohol testing supplies like the Lion SD 500 and the Oraline saliva tests. Random testing programs are simpler to administer when reliable testing supplies are used.

References

1 Placing Workers in Safe Workplaces. (2006, June). Retrieved from Worksafe – Victoria Government: http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/10082/placing_labour_hire.pdf

2 Cercarelli, Dr. Rina, Professor Steve Allsop, Dr. Michaela Evans & Dr. Fredrik Velander. (2012, March). Reducing alcohol-related harm in the workplace (An evidence review: full report). Retrieved from National Drug Research Institute – Curtin University of Technology: http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/local/docs/pdf/publications/T214.pdf

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Heroin Makes a Comeback

Alcohol TestIn July 2012, the news reports announced that the Australian Federal Police had been tipped off by US drug agents about a drug shipment, leading to seizures of more than a half a tonne of drugs. The drug shipment included 306kg of crystal methamphetamine and 252kg of heroin. The seizure took place in Sydney and led to the arrest of seven Hong Kong nationals.1 The drug bust was notable for several reasons, including the volume of drugs and the fact two policing agencies so successfully collaborated. However, just as interesting and alarming was the fact this was the third-largest heroin seizure in the history of the Australian Federal Police.

One thing is certain: drug smugglers are shipping ice and heroin because they believe it can be sold. The largest drug busts in the past couple of years have been 239 kg of methamphetamine (2011), $75 million of pseudoephedrine (2011), and 464 kg of cocaine (2010). Also in 2010, 168 kg of heroin hidden in a shipment of house doors was found. Now two years later, a 50 percent larger shipment of heroin is seized, and it is an indication that heroin use is once again on the rebound.

Ebb and Flow Tied to Price

Standard drug tests have been able to detect heroin for quite a while. Heroin ebbs and flows in popularity, and the determining factor seems to be price. As the price of ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamines goes up, substance abusers turn to cheaper drugs like heroin. Black market prices for prescription drugs are also rising, contributing to the increase in heroin use. As any type of pills get harder to obtain, people desperate for affordable “highs” or looking for more powerful drug experiences are once more turning back to familiar heroin.

The upward trend in heroin use was first detected several years ago, as was an increase in other opioids. Statistics for 2008 indicated that 500 Australians died from opioid overdoses, but preliminary statistics for 2009 and 2010 already showed an upward trend. Heroin accounted for 30 percent of the total opioid drug deaths for ages 15 to 54 in 2008.2 The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) reported heroin statistics from the last Illicit Drug Data Report, and those statistics show the weight of heroin detections at the border increased by 241 percent in 2010-2011 compared to the prior year. This was the highest amount recorded since 2001-2002. The ACC states that the increasing number of heroin drug seizures and arrests indicate the heroin market in Australia is poised to expand.

A Drug By Any Other Name…

Heroin goes by many names that include horse, smack, hammer, China white, H, rock and more. It works by mimicking the naturally occurring chemicals produced by the brain and body in response to pain. The drug creates a rush of endorphins that produce the “high.” After the rush, the drug user feels relaxed and free of worry. Of course, that feeling does not last, and users soon need another fix. It is easy to overdose on a small amount of heroin and especially when alcohol or other drugs are used at the same time. An overdose occurs when the central nervous system is suppressed to the point that the person’s blood pressure drops so low that oxygen is unable to be transported to the vital organs.

Employers need to stay informed about the current popular drugs of choice to better monitor the workplace for signs of drug use. Though we tend to think of hard core heroin users as injectors, the drug can also be consumed by snorting, swallowing, and smoking. The increase in attempted heroin imports is a clear sign that its popularity and use is on the rise once again

CMM Technology (http://cmm.com.au) provides reliable drug tests able to detect heroin and other illicit drugs. There is a wide range of options available that include saliva and urine drug tests, giving employers the ability to structure testing to match requirements and preferences.

References

1 Cuneo, Clementine. Police investigation leads to $500m drug seizure. (31 July 2012). Herald Sun. Retrieved at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/true-crime-scene.

2 Downey, Marion (media contact). Heroin and other opioid related deaths on the rise. (4 October 2012)/ National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre. Retrieved at: http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/news/heroin-and-other-opioid-related-deaths-rise

3 Heroin. (n.d.) Australian Crime Commission. Retrieved at http://www.crimecommission.gov.au/publications/crime-profile-series-fact-sheet/heroin-0

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Hangover Effects a Workplace Safety Issue

A hangover is the term used for physical and mental lingering effects caused by consuming an excessive amount of a substance. Though usuallyhangover associated with alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs can also cause hangovers by definition. For purposes of this discussion, the focus is on alcohol and the impact of workers showing up for duty whilst experiencing the many potential side effects of over-consumption.

In the past, researchers have largely concentrated on the symptoms and causes of symptoms experienced whilst drinking. However, the alcohol hangover represents a set of symptoms that a person continues to experience hours after drinking has ended, sometimes as long as 24 hours later. The unproven theory until recently has been that dehydration is the main culprit, and dehydration is primarily responsible for less serious symptoms like dry mouth. However, further research indicates that drinking too much alcohol leads to changes in the immune system and those changes are more likely the cause of serious hangover symptoms like memory impairment. In fact, studies have indicated that the central nervous system, the target of alcohol, and the immune system communicate with each other and impairment of both can lead to typical hangover symptoms. Complicating studies of hangovers is the fact that people often drink during some of the hours they would normally be sleeping, thus sleep deprivation may be another contributing factor to the severity of hangover effects.1

Hangovers and Worker Impairment

Hangovers present a safety risk. A study of 800 assembly workers concentrated on the relationship of hangovers and work performance. The workers admitting they had reported to work with a hangover had problems like co-worker conflicts, falling asleep, difficult completing work and feeling sick. Those workers who had worked with hangovers reported more problems than those who did not. Workers with hangovers had more incidences of supervisors saying something about work performance also.2

Hangover symptoms can vary, but most of them will impair a worker’s reaction time, ability to reason, judgment, physical coordination, and care. For this reason, even a mild hangover or the use of a small amount of alcohol or drugs in the workplace can significantly increase the risk of workplace injuries. There has even been the suggestion that people who drink in the workplace are risk takers and thus more likely to behave in a risky manner anyway, compounding the negative effects of a hangover.3 People with hangovers experience headaches, fatigue, inattention, and impaired memory. Physical injuries are the most serious consequences of hangovers in workplace; but the symptoms can also impact the ability of office workers to do their jobs correctly, increasing the risk of errors that can harm the business. For example, an accountant will have trouble concentrating and makes significant errors in payroll processing or critical tax entries. Hangovers increase absenteeism and health care costs, too.

No Such Thing as “Only a Hangover”

For these reasons, random alcohol and drug testing that detects substance use that may have occurred over a weekend or during off-duty time, like the night before, is valid. The employer has a duty of care to protect the safety of all workers. The worker who tells others that it is “only a hangover” does not understand the seriousness of the condition. In industries where the risk of injury is high, employees must be mentally alert, have good physical reflexes, and able to exercise good judgment. It is critical that workers understand the role of hangovers in work performance and as a safety hazard. That message can and should be delivered in an employee training and education program.

CMM Technology (http://cmm.com.au) works closely with employers in all industries during their selection of the appropriate alcohol and drug testing supplies. There is a variety of breathalyser devices for detecting alcohol, and saliva and urine kits for detecting drugs, available to fit budgets and program needs.

References

1 Alcohol and Alcoholism – The alcohol hangover – a puzzling phenomenon. (8 January 2008). Oxford Journals , 43 (2), 124-126.

2 Ames G. M., Grube J.W., Moore R.S. The relationship of drinking and hangovers to workplace problems: an empirical study. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1997, 58:37-47.

3 Ramchand, Rajeev and Amanda Pomeroy, Jeremy Arkes. (2009). The Effects of Substance Use on Workplace Injuries. Retrieved from Rand Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/occasional_papers/2009/RAND_OP247.pdf

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Sitting Down All Day

Sitting Down All DayIf you have ever worked in a busy office environment, or as an underling taking calls and helping phone clients, you know what it is like to sit down all day. Some people experience a cutting off of blood circulation, while others experience getting restless or feeling as if they need to move around a lot more.

Unfortunately, these jobs do not come with an immediate escape or way to get more movement. You will, instead, have to be more creative. Many employees take advantage of their smoking break to go outside and abuse drugs or alcohol. They do this because it takes the edge off and helps them not be so stressed out.

There is a way around that. Taking responsibility for your work and for making the organization or company better is part of enjoying your work and your life as a whole. It is a part of life fulfillment, and your choice is all it takes to be better at your work. This is not how many people think, though. They often make their happiness dependent upon external circumstances, which is a dangerous way to live your life. External situations will inevitably let you down, since they are not always under your control. Choosing to be happy and resilient and smart and to keep growing is a personal decision, not contingent upon anyone else.

CMM Technology provides a way for you to keep track of which employees are looking for an illicit outlet and which are conforming to company policy and bringing value to your business. We provide drug testing through our drug test kits and our personal breathalyser devices. Our recalibration service is really worth something, and we give you everything you need to recalibrate your current breathalysers, as well as ones you buy through us. Our business brings employee drug testing to the entire nation, and we are proud to serve Australia. And if you find yourself desiring to get up and move around after a long day’s work, simply take up a sport, which will regulate your heart for active and resting periods, making both times functional to your body. Call CMM Technology today: (+61) 1300 79 70 30.

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Gaining Respect without Words

Respect is something which is felt, not stated. You cannot give or receive respect by the spoken word, but it can be transferred by attitude,Gaining Respect without Words demeanor, and many other ways of speaking nonverbally. Respect must be felt within oneself before it can be given to another, and therefore people who are small and mean and cowardly cannot believably give respect to another. Nobody really thinks that they are capable of such a quality within themselves.

When put in a position of authority for which you have had practice and training, you can command respect and speak and act with authority, since you feel it within yourself and you understand the feeling once you have it. When dealing with people in a small and miserly way, you forget what it feels like to have self respect, much less respect for other people, and it becomes a situation where you will be replaced or demoted to another, lesser position.

That is why CMM Technology provides drug test equipment and alcohol tests to businesses throughout Australia. We know the importance of commanding respect from your employees and that includes being fit for duty. Try our ToxSure saliva drug test, as well as our other drug testing options for your business. We want to make sure that you have everything you need to work right. The proper tool for the proper job cannot be underestimated.

To get respect without words, remember to bring in breathalysers for our breathalyser recalibration service any time you need recalibrating. These are services which CMM Technology performs for our customers, and we believe that we can really make a difference in how smoothly your employee drug testing goes. For more information about these services, visit our website above and look at all of the options available to you. We gain respect in our community, and you can too. It is your right to hold your business properly in this economy. Bring the best to the table, and your employees will have the best to work with. Call CMM Technology today: (+61) 1300 79 70 30.

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Feeding Your Specific Self

Feeding Your Specific SelfMany drug addicts can be said to be starving. On a daily basis, all the time, they can be said to be starving. What does this starving entail?

There is a great deal studied and researched about the nutrition deficiencies of drug addicts. If you know your business, then you know that some illicit drugs drain the nutrition reserves of the body, while others cause the individual to either have the munchies, where they eat large amounts of food but really low quality food, or they have appetite suppressant. They are either abusing drugs which cause them to deplete in nutrition, or they eat so much junk food that their nutrition is depleted all on its own. Either way, there is starvation of nutrition and the body often shows this.

Secondly, there is a starvation of psychological health. Paranoia, poverty mentality, constant and continuous survivalist mode, and many other ways of thinking about things are part of the drug addicts psychological habits. This becomes more dangerous the more they progress into their addiction. Feelings of violence or aggression coming up to mask impotency or helplessness makes a drug addict very dangerous.

At CMM Technology, we seek to normalize the effect that these addicts can have upon your business. Through drug test equipment, you can easily learn how to identify employees who are fit for duty and those who are not. We carry breathalysers, as well as provide breathalyser recalibration service for your company. Our drug testing capabilities make employee drug testing very easy and serviceable. We want your workers to feel and be safe in their jobs, and employee drug testing is a great way to ensure that this happens. Set a standard for how starvation is kept out of your business and from your operations. You need well fed employees, both physically and psychologically, and this can only happen when they are well taken care of and when you look after their wellbeing. There is a reason why employers bear this responsibility in Australia. Carry the burden well. Call CMM Technology today for more information about our drug test kits: (+61) 1300 79 70 30.

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The Unlikely Pairing of Hard Drugs and Ageing

It is natural for employers to think of illicit drug users as mostly young adults who fall prey to peer pressure or just get caught up in the party Alcotechscene. However, it is time to think differently as the Australian population ages and studies indicate that a growing number of people continue their drug use through the decades. In some cases the middle aged substance abusers may cut back on the frequency of drug use, but even that is not always true. The implication for Australian employers is that random workforce drug and alcohol testing programs need to continue no matter how high the average population age rises.

According to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, the labour force participation for the age groups 45-54 and 55-59 is increasing as public policy and economic conditions encourage people to continue employment for a longer period of time. In fact, between 1996 and 2006, the participation rate rose by 6.2 percent to 71.6 percent. As of October 2006, 47 percent of the working population was over 45 years old, representing an increase of 3 percent. These trends will not only continue but are expected to continue at an increasing rate.1 In these statistics is buried an interesting fact. One of the side effects of improved drug treatments and harm minimisation programs is the fact that lifelong drug users have an increased life expectancy.

Ageing Opioid Users in the Workplace

Recent studies are reporting some surprising results. A study of people over 40 years old, conducted by the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League, is important in several respects. For employers, the key finding is that it documents a growing number of ageing injecting opioid users. One of those reasons is baby boomers who began injecting during the 1970s and 1980 now comrpise the mature population, and some have not aged out of drug use. Whilst it was generally believed that mature workers would leave illicit drug use behind, it seems that some have continued using drugs and are living to an older age. The report is only able to extrapolate the number of older Australian opioid users, but the figures indicate the extent of the problem. As many as 45,600 to 79,800 over-40 years old are non-dependentt opioid users and 12,854 to 30,721 are dependent.2

The opioid injectors who were interviewed or who agreed to complete an online questionnaire reported a number of key issues. As would be expected, they included health, family and financial matters. However, they also expressed employment concerns. Almost all of the people interviewed or surveyed were employed at the time. The employed opioid users said their working lives would be improved if they had better treatment access and a way to balance a pharmacotherapy program (like easier access to methadone clinics) with employment.

Dark Secrets

Also of interest to employers is the fact that the mature opioid users admitted they went to great lengths to hide their drug use from employers. In fact, some of the older users would refuse treatment or fail to tell their health professional about the opioid use for fear of losing their jobs or of being able to find a decent job. They also admitted that their drug use impeded their chances of advancement.3

Employers must be diligent in developing and administering a random drug testing program that includes people of all ages. Since so many studies on drug and alcohol abuse address young adults, it is easy to get lulled into believing mature workers have put drug abuse in their past. Unfortunately, a mature age is no guarantee a person behaves in a mature manner.

Based on professional studies, random drug and alcohol testing programs should be truly random and not exclude any worker age group. Employers can rely on CMM Technology (http://cmm.com.au/) for all drug testing technology and equipment needs for saliva, urine and breath testing.

References

1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2007, November). Older Australia at a glance. Retrieved from Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442454209

2 AIVL. (2011, July). Double Jeopardy – Older Injecting Opioid Users in Australia. Retrieved from Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL): http://aivl.org.au/database/sites/default/files/resources/AIVL-Double-Jeopardy-WEBversion.pdf

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Online Drug Purchases Create New Worry for Employers

Recalibration ServiceControlling employee drug and alcohol use and developing employer drug and alcohol policies are two activities closely bound to managing worker privacy issues. There is arguably only one subject more complex than maintaining a drug free workplace in an age of high rates of substance abuse by the Australian population. That subject is balancing worker privacy rights with the employer’s need-to-know employee behaviours that may pose a threat to workplace safety. The issue of controlling drug use at the place of employment and maintaining employee privacy has taken on a new dimension in that people, including workers, are increasingly using their workplace internet access to purchase illicit drugs.

Buying drugs online is nothing new for the drug community. The Silk Road website, often called the “eBay for drugs”, and a number of global sites selling pharmaceuticals and synthetic drugs, are increasingly used by substance abusers as sources of illicit drugs. What sets Silk Road apart is the fact it uses masking or encryption software called Tor that makes it virtually impossible to track data. An employee using Tor can order illicit drugs online and have them mailed from overseas or delivered within Australia, and even technology wizards are unable to trace the order.1

Under the Radar

The “dark internet” is a secret network on the web in which people can operate under the radar, so to speak. It is so technologically sophisticated that the Australian Federal Police and a host of global law enforcement officials have been unable to locate the source or the founder who goes by the name of The Dread Pirate Roberts. Recently, a past Silk Road user discussed his experience. In a chilling interview with ABC News – Australia, Ryan West explained he would buy $300 of MDMA and resell it for $2,500 within a day. The drugs were ordered on a computer in his bedroom. The only reason he was caught was due to the fact he had a flourishing business selling the drugs out of his house. If he had bought them online and then posted the drugs when resold, there was a good chance he would have escaped detection.2

If people can simply install encryption software, should employers worry about employees using the workplace as a cover for the purchase of illegal drugs? The sobering answer is: Yes, they should be aware the potential exists. However, employers can protect themselves to a certain extent by developing privacy policies that address anonymous use of employer technology. The privacy policies are then integrated with drug and alcohol policies and strictly enforced using technology, internal controls, and random drug testing.

Small Company Policies Needed to Maintain Duty

Large corporations have the enterprise technology to block employee use of anonymous web proxies and all employee generated data is routinely monitored. Smaller companies often have limited technological capabilities, making it easier for workers to use workstations for the wrong activities. However, all employers need to develop privacy policies that support their duty to maintain a safe workplace. Though there is no common law right to privacy in Australia, the Federal Government has passed a Privacy Act that outlines guidelines for the collection and use of employee personal information and for keeping logs of web browsing activities by staff.3

It is important that smaller companies implement policies that adhere to the highest level the law allows and then train workers on those policies. For example, employees should know that their web browsing activities are logged and that a technical staff member is monitoring the log for all suspicious activity. Though the most technically savvy employees may be able to stay under the radar, most will not have level of knowledge needed to do so. If IT detects suspicious activity, the procedures should require immediate management notification. In addition, the small enterprise needs clear mail monitoring procedures. For example, an employer should retain the right to open any package addressed to an employee with the employer’s address.

Forbidden Activities

Of course, there must be a drug and alcohol policy and random testing program, which are essential to maintain a substance free workplace. As hard core substance abusers look for new ways to buy illegal substances, employers must adapt their policies and procedures. In the case of the dark internet, this means adding monitoring technology when possible and strengthening explicit policies on forbidden activities. Keeping workers informed on workplace monitoring and substance use policies, and potential consequences of policy violations, will promote a drug and alcohol free workplace.

Increasing sophistication of technology creates an imperative for employers, in that they must adapt their drug and alcohol policies to the current state of technology. One of the important steps in this process is adhering to a random drug and alcohol testing program, which helps small businesses overcome technology budgetary restrictions. CMM Technology at http://www.cmm.com.au/ offers a variety of drug tests that can detect numerous drugs, including amphetamines and methamphetamines.

References

1 Duffy, Conor. (2012, December 5). Dealers shed light on dark internet’s drug trade. Retrieved from ABC News – Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-05/dark-internet-linked-to-drug-seizure-spike/4410872

2 Ibid

3 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. (2012, December). Guidelines on Workplace E-mail, Web Browsing and Privacy. Retrieved from the Australian Government – Office of the Australian Information Commissioner: http://www.privacy.gov.au/materials/types/guidelines/view/6056

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Men, Women and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse has seemingly turned employers into experts on drug abuse in many ways. They must be familiar with commonly used streetRecalibration drugs, recognize the symptoms of drug use, learn how people frequently hide evidence of drug use, and become masters at dealing with sensitive issues like positive drug tests and privacy rights. However, there is one more bit of information to add to the list – gender differences in substance abuse.

The oft-quoted statistics from the 2007 national Drug Strategy Household Survey give the first clues to gender differences. Forty-one percent (41%) of males and thirty-four percent (34%) of females over the age of 14 had used illicit drugs in their lifetime at least once. When asked about use of illicit drugs in the previous twelve months, 15.8% of males and 11.0% of females admitted to recent use. Statistically speaking, males are more likely during their lifetime to use an illicit drug than females. In fact, 3 out of every 5 Australian men have used an illicit drug, which means there is a 60% chance that even a small business with 5 employees has a worker who would test positive for drugs like heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, or cannabis.1 However, the numbers also include the use of legal prescription drugs used for illicit purposes.

The Bigger Picture

Though these statistics are important to know as part of the ‘big picture’, the Institute of Criminology (IOC) also offers a glimpse into gender differences in drug use patterns. After conducting a study on offenders, some interesting information emerged. For example, IOC found that there are gender differences in the type of drugs used. More women (43%) used amphetamines and methylamphetamine than men (34%). More men (59%) used cannabis. More women (18%) used heroin than men (13%), but more men (9%) used ecstasy.2

The message is clear for employers: the ideal drug tests are those that detect multiple drugs, like the saliva device DrugWipe® 5+. This particular product detects opiates, cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and cocaine. Another example of a multi-panel test is the Oraline saliva device that detects opiates, methamphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana.

Also of interest to employers in the IOC study is the statistic indicating that criminal offenders charged with property crimes or a drug crime were much more likely to be drug addicted. This was true for men and women. Drug addiction often leads to property crimes, including in the workplace, because of the need for money for drugs. Yet, the IOC concluded that there are, “…differential patterns of male and female drug use…” Women offenders use harder illegal drugs than men and are more likely to commit property crimes just to support their drug habit. Another way to state this is that women are committing many of these crimes because they are on drugs. One theory proposed is that women turn to harder drugs like amphetamines, cocaine and heroin because they are looking from a way to manage psychological distress.3

Unbiased Drug Testing

There are several reasons why it is important for employers to understand the gender differences in substance abuse. First, the statistics eliminate personal perceptions. People tend to think of the worst drug offenders as men. Second, women are more likely to commit property thefts to support drug use. Third, it is clear that random drug testing is ideal because it overcomes any potential employer bias in the drug and alcohol testing program. This gives an employer a stronger legal footing for taking employee disciplinary action or managing legal challenges to the testing program.

CMM technology (http://cmm.com.au/index.php) has a number of multi-panel drug testing devices that are able to produce highly reliable results. The quality devices ensure that administered test results are unbiased when used in a well-designed random drug and alcohol testing program in the workplace.

References

1 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings. (2007). Retrieved May 10, 2011, from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442468195

2 Forsythe, Lubica and Kerryn Adams. (2009, November). Mental health, abuse, drug use and crime: does gender matter. Retrieved from Australian Government Institute of Criminology: http://www.aic.gov.au/documents/F/2/D/%7BF2D5EEFF-3E95-419D-A1F5-BF5F8579F01C%7Dtandi384.pdf

3 Byrne MK & Howells K 2002. The psychological needs of women prisoners: implications for rehabilitation and management. Psychiatry, psychology and law. 9(1): 34–43.

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Drug Testing is Equally Important to Small Businesses

BreathalyserDrug and alcohol testing requires an investment in testing kits and screening services, so it is tempting for small businesses to postpone implementation. That decision can be a serious and expensive mistake. As is true for any financial decision, there must be a measurable Return on Investment (ROI). Implementing drug and alcohol testing programs can save any size business a significant amount of money in a number of ways.

Not-So-Hidden Costs of Substance Abuse

One of the factors in the calculation of the Return on Investment for drug and alcohol testing programs is worker’s compensation. All businesses must have workers’ compensation. The rates are based on industry claims and wages experience, and in some insurance schemes, the actual experience of employers at each place of business. The exception is that a few jurisdictions allow self-insurance, but most companies that can afford to be self-insured are large employers. In cases where the employer fails to keep a policy of insurance in force, WorkCover will cover the expenses of an employee’s work related injuries or death but will most likely sue the employer to recover those expenses plus penalties and past due insurance premiums.

Workers, and legislatively deemed workers like miners and horse jockeys, are covered by worker’s compensation when at work, journeying to and from work, travelling for the employer, and/or whilst on break at or away from the work premises. Workers’ compensation covers work related injuries or impairment, occupational diseases, and work related death. The number of serious claims with one (1) week or more of incapacity represents staggering financial and productivity losses. In 2008-2009, the statistics are as follows: NSW (42,640); Victoria (24,130); Queensland (31,060); WA (12,670); SA (9,010); Tasmania (3,500); NT (1,290), ACT (1,640); and the Commonwealth (2,660); for a total of Australia (128,600).1

Small Business Workers Can Just as Easily Get Injured

What does this have to do with drugs and alcohol? Employees using drugs and alcohol are more likely to be injured at work. The size of a business has no relationship to the likelihood of a worker, who is under the influence of substances, experiencing an accident. It is estimated that drug-related accidents cost Australian workers approximately half of $1.6 billion annually. It is also estimated that 2% of Australians show up for work under the influence of alcohol.2 Random drug and alcohol testing can reduce the number of worker accidents, which lowers the industry and employer premium rates and increases the ROI.

A business can have 5 employees or 1,000 employers, and each worker using drugs or alcohol is more likely to have an accident, costing the worker and the employer. The cost of workers’ compensation is just one factor used in the Return on Investment calculation for alcohol and drug testing programs. Small businesses can also lower absenteeism rates and increase worker productivity levels by ensuring the staff is substance free.

The size of the staff is not only irrelevant, it is even more financially critical for small businesses to manage expenses as tightly as possible. Implementing a policy for a drug free workplace supported by workplace substance testing makes financial sense. The ROI far exceeds the costs of testing kits and screening costs.

The bottom line is that small businesses cannot afford to not do drug and alcohol testing. That is precisely why CMM Technology at http://cmm.com.au/ offers a variety of affordable testing equipment and screening services to fit all business sizes.

References

1 Safe Work Australia. (2011, March). Comparison of Workers’ Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from Australian Commonwealth:

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/575/ComparisonWorkersCompensationArrangementsAusNZ2011.pdf

2 Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia. (2011, February). Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Workplace. Retrieved from Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia: http://www.dassa.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=153

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Airline Industry Proves D&A Testing Works

In perusing news articles on drugs, drug testing in Australia, and workplace drug testing, it does not take long to find serious allegations ofWorkplace Drug Testing employee drug use. Though all drug and alcohol use in the workplace is disturbing and jeopardises worker safety, there are some situations that are more disturbing than others. For example, over 100 airline employees working in Australia tested positive for alcohol or drugs during a seventeen month period. This level of substance abuse is even more disturbing when it is revealed that two of the people failing the tests are those who have a direct impact on the safety of passengers and crew in the air – pilots and flight crew.1

The statistics associated with this case were released by CASA, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. CASA has had the legal right to randomly test employees for drug or alcohol use since 2008, and this case proves again why a testing program is so important. Opponents to workplace drug testing might try to argue that finding only two in-air positions testing positive amongst the thousands of tests does not justify a comprehensive program, but it is a disingenuous argument at best. One pilot under the influence of a substance jeopardises all of the lives on the aircraft and the lives of the people on the ground working near the aircraft. It also threatens the lives of people in other aircraft who are counting on the pilot’s ability to do his or her job accurately and safely. In other words, one pilot under the influence of of drugs or alcohol threatens the safety of hundreds of people.

The very fact that certain positions are included in the testing program is a clear indication that CASA and the airlines consider all the positions associated with aircraft in any way as safety-sensitive. They include air traffic control staff, air and cabin crew, ground workers, baggage workers, maintenance personnel, refuellers, aircraft engineers, and security screening personnel.

Increasing at an Increasing Rate

The statistics are alarming. Three months after a Qantas pilot was removed from a flight on suspicion he had been drinking, the CASA report was issued revealing the extent of the problem. The tests were conducted between September 2010 and February 2012 and were administered for one of three reasons: 1) pre-employment testing, 2) reasonable suspicion or for-cause, or 3) employee was returning from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. There were 27,549 alcohol tests and 24 positive results and 19,402 drug tests and 80 positive results.

To put the growing problem in perspective, consider the fact that random drug and alcohol tests conducted by the airlines between 2008 and March 2012 produced 27 positive results out of 51,645 tests, as opposed to 104 positives out of 46,951 recent CASA tests. The airline results covered approximately 4 years, whilst the CASA results were for a 17 month period. Clearly, drug and alcohol use in the workplace is growing rapidly.

Most of the positive results were associated with cabin, ground staff, and baggage handlers. Besides the CASA random testing program, a second tier internal testing program for safety sensitive aviation activity personnel is also conducted. That testing recorded another 45 positive alcohol or drug tests out of 51,000 tests administered.2

Lessons to Learn

The airline industry and government efforts to detect worker drug and alcohol use hold lessons for all industries. First, the airlines random testing program is supported by an education program, and that surely contributes to the low rate of substance abuse. Second, the two-tier approach supports the strong joint commitment to airline safety by the employers and the government. Third, drug and alcohol testing programs are an integral component of a workplace safety program. Fourth, drug and alcohol testing programs work.

The truth is that no employer wants a single worker under the influence of substances during working hours because every place of employment needs to be safe and productive.

CMM Technology (http://cmm.com.au/) facilitates drug and alcohol testing programs by supplying state-of-the-art equipment and kits. Accurate testing is critical so that employers and staff have confidence the testing program is valid and reliable.

References

1 Zappone, Chris. (2012, October 30). More airline staff fail drug, alcohol tests. Retrieved from The Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/business/more-airline-staff-fail-drug-alcohol-tests-20121030-28gi3.html

2 Dunn, Mark. (2012, October 30). More than 100 airline employees have tested positive to drugs or alcohol over 17 months. Retrieved from News.com.au (from Heraldsun.com.au): http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/more-than-100-airline-employees-have-tested-positive-to-drugs-or-alcohol-over-17-months/story-e6frfkp9-1226505683021

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