Frequently asked questions related to testing procedures

Why implement a workplace drug and alcohol testing program?

Workplace safety is a real concern world-wide. If your workplace has a history of accidents or operates within a high risk industry, then a workplace drug and alcohol program would be an effective way to:

  • decrease or eliminate accidents
  • deter safety breaches
  • address low performance levels

which are or could be attributed to alcohol or drug abuse/misuse.

Does my workplace require a drug and alcohol testing regime?

In order to comply with national and state occupational health and safety requirements in Australia (and indeed, most other countries too), employers are required to provide a safe workplace for their staff, visitors and the community at large. Consequently, this ‘duty of care’ extends to addressing the abuse/misuse of drugs and alcohol in the workplace (which could lead to accidents or impaired performance).

As the business owner or manager, it’s your legal duty to satisfactorily identify risks and implement appropriate risk management measures and systems. In this way, it’s prudent for all employers to investigate whether a ‘culture of risk’ is evident in their workplace. This is especially true if the employer is involved in a ‘high risk’ industry where safety is of critical important, such as:

  • Aviation
  • Construction
  • Law enforcement
  • Mining
  • Traffic control
  • Transport.

So, if you’ve identified breaches of workplace protocol or conduct which have led to impaired, dangerous or low performance which  could cause (or plausibly cause) an accident, a drug and alcohol testing program is not only permitted but highly recommended. This position is fully supported by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) on the provision of improving occupational safety and OHS compliance. In fact, many unions now concur with the AIRC on the necessity of ‘reasonable’ workplace drug and alcohol testing programs when they are structured to keep employees and others safe from harm.

How to implement your workplace drug and alcohol testing program

Workplace drug and alcohol testing requires careful planning and consistent deployment. In this way, it is vital that all authorised personnel are trained and receive relevant accreditation. It’s also prudent to enlist the expert services and guidance of a relevant government authority, OHS expert or industry professional, such as:

Requirements for workplace drug and alcohol testing in Australia

In Australia, the requirements for workplace drug and alcohol testing are stipulated in the Australian Standards as follows:

  • The Australian Urine Drug Testing Standard AS4308:2008
  • The Australian Saliva Drug Testing Standard AS4760:2006.

For more information, visit www.standards.org.au.

Requirements for workplace drug and alcohol testing outside Australia

Please seek advice from your local and federal government authority or national workplace law specialist.

Why use the saliva test?

Some of the key advantages of the saliva test (to traditional forms of drug and alcohol detection methods), include:

  • Simple to administer: no advanced medical knowledge or urine testing units are required to collect samples, therefore, most staff can competently manage their workplace drug and alcohol testing program without a nursing or medical qualification. However, it should be noted that many countries do require accredited training for authorised collectors.
  • Procedures are less disruptive for normative workplace operations
  • Less resistance by Unions and employees on the grounds of privacy invasion or intrusive detection methodology
  • Only recent drug use or exposure is identified
  • Screening results are obtained within minutes
  • Collection process is observed from start to finish: this prevents sample collections being tampered, diluted, substituted or adulterated
  • Testing process can be conducted at remote sites or at the employee’s place of employment, thereby causing minimal disruption to workplace business
  • In most countries, the process is fully supported by laboratory confirmation of ‘presumptive positive’ results. In this way, employees are not required to provide additional samples for analysis.

How is the saliva/ oral fluid sample collected?

There are a variety of modalities that can be used to conduct a saliva test. However, the basic system involves placing an absorbent swab in the mouth of the donor. After the saliva is collected, the contents of the swab are analysed by the drug detection technology and then assessed by the testing practitioner (for evidence of drug use).

For a leading selection of quality saliva tests, click on the items list below:

**This device is made by the same company that makes the 2-panel version used by Australian Police in their roadside detection campaigns.

What’s the accuracy level of a saliva drug test?

This depends on the type of saliva test used, however, most quality saliva tests (as the ones listed above) have been proven very reliable and accurate and have a good correlation with laboratory confirmations. Of course, in the event of a ‘presumptive positive’ reading, the saliva sample is to be submitted to an accredited laboratory for confirmatory testing.

To deem a test sample valid and legally defensible, a Chain of Custody process must be faithfully followed and all details noted officially on Australian Standards aligned stationary. Furthermore, to avoid accusations of discrimination or unauthorised practices, it is important that collection officers are accredited collectors. CMM Technology offer structured accredited courses, bespoke in-house training, Chain of Custody documentation and saliva testing kits for all your workplace testing needs. For more expert advice, call CMM Technology today on (+618) 9204 2500.

Alternatively, it’s recommended that the services of a professional onsite testing provider, such as Mediscreen, are enlisted. For more information, call Mediscreen today on 1300 79 70 40 for a cost competitive risk management solution.

How far back can the saliva test detect drug exposure?

The window of detection is far shorter than urine testing. This entails that a saliva test can only determine if a drug or alcohol was ingested within a few hours or days (depending on the testing technology used). For example, opiates and amphetamines can be detected upwards of approximately 24-hours after use. Whilst recent cannabis use (i.e. delta-9-THC) can be only be detected within a few hours of exposure. (Note: This test can not detect the presence of inactive cannabis metabolites (delta-9-THC-COOH) which can remain in the body for many weeks or months after initial cannabis use).

What types of drugs can be detected with the saliva test?

The following groups of drugs can be detected by selected saliva testing technologies, such as:

  • Amphetamines (i.e. stimulants)
  • Cannabis (i.e. Delta–9–THC)
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines⁄ MDMA (i.e. ice, ecstasy or speed)
  • Opiates (i.e. codeine or heroin)

For more expert advice, call CMM Technology today on (+618) 9204 2500.

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