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INTRODUCINGRANDOMDRUGANDALCOHOLTESTINGINTHEWORKPLACE

Thequestionthatoftenarisesforemployersworkinginpotentiallydangerousindustriesis,canwe
introducearandomdrugandalcoholtestingprocedurefortestingouremployees?,orarewe
allowedtotestemployeeswhoareperceivedtobeundertheinfluenceofdrugsoralcoholwhilstat
work?

Theshortansweristhat,beforetesting,anemployershouldhaveapolicyontheprohibiteduseof
drugsandalcoholintheworkplaceandthetestingmethodsavailableforidentifyingemployees
usingorimpairedbydrugsand/oralcoholatwork.Thepurposeofanysuchpolicyshouldbeto:

educateemployeesaboutthestandardsthatareexpectedofthem;
explainwhattheirresponsibilitiesare;and,
statewhatwillbetheconsequencesofanybreachofsuchapolicy.

Itisworthnotingthatanemployermayfacefierceoppositionfromworkers(ortheir
representatives)whenintroducingorchangingadrugandalcoholpolicy.Itisanacceptedprinciple
byindustrialcourtsandtribunalsthattestingisanintrusionontheprivacyofanindividualwhichcan
onlybejustifiedonhealthandsafetygrounds.

Asanemployerhasanobligationtoattempttoeliminatetherisksthatanemployeeandtheirco
workersmightcomeacrossattheworkplace,includingrisksassociatedwithcolleaguesbeingunder
theinfluenceofalcoholorimpairedbydrugs,testingonthisbasisispermissible,providedthe
employerhasreasonablegroundstobelievethatthereisapotentialrisktohealthandsafety,and
providedthatareasonablemethodforperformingthetestsisoutlinedandfollowed.Employee
consentshouldbeobtainedandobjectiveresultsshouldbeproducedfromthetesting.

Thebiggestobstacleforanemployercarryingoutsuchtestingwillbeanargumentputforwardby
employees,totheeffectthat,thetestingprocedureisanintrusionintotheirpersonallives.Any
reasonsforintroducingdrugandalcoholtesting,otherthanonhealthandsafetygrounds,willbe
consideredunreasonableastheemployerhasnocontrolovertheactivitiesofitsemployeesduring
theirownleisuretime(unlesstheoutofhoursconductissoseriousitmaydamagethecompanys
businessorreputation).

Whatshouldbeinapolicy?

Anydrugandalcoholpolicyshouldincludeanumberofsafeguards,suchas:

oncethereisaconfirmedpositivetestresult,theresponsiblemanagerwillspeaktothe
employeetovalidatetheresult.Themanagerwilldiscusstheimplicationsofthetestresult
andtheoptionsfortreatmentorrehabilitation,whereappropriate.Theresponsible
managerwillthenprovideareporttothecompanyindicatingtheemployeehastested
positiveandwillrecommendfutureaction.
anemployeewhohastestedpositivewillunlesstherearesignificantmitigatingor
aggravatingfactorsreceiveformalcounselling.
repeatpositivetestswillreceiveprogressivelymoreserioussanctions(aformalwarning,a
finalwarningandultimatelydismissal).

employeeswhoneedtimeofffordrugandalcoholrelatedproblems(e.g.addictions)will
haveaccesstothecompanyspersonalleavepolicyinthesamewayasemployeeswhoare
illorinjuredforotherreasons.

Anypolicyshouldnotberestrictedtotestingonlyforillicitdrugsbutalsoincludetestingof
prescriptionmedicationsandpharmaceuticalswhichcanalsocauseimpairment.

Someoverthecountermedicinescontainawarningthatthemedicationmaycausedrowsiness,
whiledepressantprescriptiondrugs,suchassedativesorsleepingtablets,canalsocauseimpairment
whichcancreatearisktohealthandsafety.

Methodsoftestingurinevs.saliva

Whiledecisionsbyindustrialtribunalsovertheyearshavefoundthatbothurineandsalivatestingis
acceptablefortestingfordrugs,thebalanceofcaselawappearstofavoursalivatestingoverurine
testing.

InamatterbeforetheoldFairWorkAustralia,afullbenchdescribedthecompetingscientificmerits
ofurineandsalivatesting.Theydescribedoraltestingasmorefocusedinidentifyingacute
impairment,whereasurinetestingwasmorelikelytouncoverpatternsofdrugusewhichmaylead
tolevelsofimpairmentandsafetyconcerns.

Itconcludedthatoralfluidtestingfordrugsshouldbeadoptedaspartofanynewdrugandalcohol
policy,ratherthanurinetesting.

InApril2015adecisionbytheFairWorkCommissionsIanCambridge,whowassittingonan
arbitrationofadisputebetweentheCFMEUandthePortKemblaCoalTerminalinNSW,backedthe
company'sproposalforrandomtesting,usingeitheroralfluidorurine.TheCFMEUopposedurine
testingandsoughtafindingfromthetribunalthatitrepresentedanunreasonableintrusioninto
employees'privacy.

Whilehestatedinhisreasonsthattherewas"undoubtedcontroversy"overwhichmethodwasbest
andthecase"clearlyconfirmedtheongoinganddevelopingnatureoftheargumentabouturine
versusoralfluid",theCommissioneralsostatedthatthebenefitsofadoptingbothmethodsin
randomcombination"significantlyoutweighanyprivacydetrimentsthatcouldbeidentified".

Privacylaws

Therelevantprivacylegislationshouldbeconsideredwhenimplementingorvaryingadrugand
alcoholpolicy.Forexample,theresultsofdrugtestingcouldberegardedashealthinformation
undertherelevantstateorterritorylegislation.Thiswasanissueinthedecisioncitedabove.
Ultimately,theCommissionerruledthatsafetyoutweighedtheprivacyissuesraisedbytheUnion.

Keytakeawaylessonsforemployers

1.
Beforeimplementingtesting,considerthenatureoftheworkperformedbyemployeesand
ensurethataclearjustificationexistsfortestingonsafetygrounds.
2.
Seekanemployeesconsent.Forcinganemployeetobetestedwillexposecriminalandcivil
liability.
3.
Includeatestingclauseinanydrugandalcoholpolicyoutlininghowdrugandalcoholtesting
willbeundertaken.
4.
Alwaysmakesuretestresultsaresecuredandemployeesprivacyisprotected.

MembersareencouragedtocontacttheIndustrialRelationsDepartmentforassistanceinreviewing
ordraftingadrugandalcoholpolicy.ThisserviceisincludedintheIREssentialmembership.