Guidance checklist for managing drug testing in-house

Pathtech Pty Ltd

Friday, 23 January, 2015

In industries where the majority of workers are engaged in safety-critical work, a robust workplace drug and alcohol-testing regime can be a key component of the overall occupational health and safety program. It is therefore not surprising that there are many options available to the safety professional working in this industry. From in-house to outsourced drug testing, to the saliva testing vs urine testing conversation and through to various devices with different features - it can be confusing and, at times, difficult to get the right program in place and manage it well.

Pathtech has developed a checklist that may help organisations manage their in-house drug testing program. Based on Pathtech's workplace drug testing experience, the checklist consists of five key questions and answers that have been designed to help guide organisations with internal discussion when they are developing or changing their in-house drug testing program. The details are as follows:

Q1: What is the objective of your in-house drug testing program - is it to identify drug-use history or ensure fitness for work?

The answer to this question will govern which testing method will best suit the needs of your workplace. If organisations are looking to identify the drug-use history of its employees, and therefore their lifestyle choices, then urine testing could provide the best solution. If, however, organisations are only interested in ensuring that all their staff and contractors are fit for work when they are on-site, then saliva testing may provide the best solution. Saliva testing identifies only recent/current drug use and hence can help to determine who is capable to work during a particular shift.

Q2: How often will you be conducting drug tests?

It may be useful to establish a set of targets to help govern how many employees, or what percentage of the organisation’s workforce, will be screened for drugs in the testing schedule. It is also important to consider the frequency of testing and whether it will be conducted on defined schedule or a random basis. Many organisations prefer random testing as the lack of a schedule itself can act as a drug-use deterrent. Employees then know that the drug testing can happen at any time, to anyone. However, even with a random schedule, setting testing goals can be useful.

Q3: Who will manage the testing?

Once the organisation has clarity on the testing targets, it can then resource the program with appropriately selected employees accordingly. To manage the process in-house, the Australian Standard stipulates that the employee needs to undergo the appropriate testing officer training with a registered training organisation. The course is usually one day in duration (with online options available), and on completion of the course, the employee will then be equipped to manage the testing regime. In-house testing can also provide cost benefits and the ability for the organisation to have a greater control over the testing program.

Q4: Do your employees know what to expect when being tested?

A clearly communicated company position statement on drug and alcohol testing should be designed to help minimise employee objections and concerns around the testing program. The statement may cover information on who may be tested, the means of testing (saliva vs urine), as well as the company’s stance on drug use in the workplace. For example, “Company Z has a zero tolerance drug policy in the workplace.”

Q5: What procedures must be followed if the result is positive?

It is considered best practice for any non-negative result to be confirmed by a secondary test. This can take place externally (for example, in a local medical centre) or by taking a second sample on-site and sending it directly to an external lab for confirmation. It is important that organisations make sure all employees are clear on the consequences of a failed drug screen. The results of the confirmation test may take a few days and a common immediate consequence for a non-negative initial drug screen is for the employee to be sent home, though this does vary greatly from policy to policy. Should the confirmation test come back as positive, the subsequent steps should also be clearly documented.

Testing devices to support your testing policy

Pathtech’s latest drug-testing devices, such as saliva drug-testing device DrugWipe, are designed to help eliminate drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. The Pathtech team also has experience working with many organisations that manage their drug testing process in-house, including several large mines, as well as a number of testing service providers.

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