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Leap in work drug tests

10.27.07

Leap in work drug tests

THERE has been a massive increase in random drug and alcohol testing in Tasmanian workplaces amid concerns that recreational drug habits are spilling into work time.
Integrity Sampling, one of Australia’s biggest drug- testing companies, has reported a 70 per cent increase in Tasmanian clients over the past 12 months, including construction company Fairbrother and Metro Tasmania.Colin Thomas, Integrity Sampling’s general manager for Tasmania and Queensland, said demand for random testing was booming.

“The interest levels in recent months have really picked up as people become more concerned about the safety issues to do with drugs in the workplace,” Mr Thomas said.

About one in 30 workers return a positive result.

A 2004 study by South Australia’s Flinders University found that 7 per cent of hospitality workers and 4.2 per cent of construction workers admitted to using illegal drugs at work.

Other industries considered at risk include transport, shipping, aviation, primary industries, sport and manufacturing.

There is a growing push for testing of white-collar workers, particularly doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals who have ready access to drugs.

At a seminar during Workplace Safe Week last week, drug use was described as a growing problem for Tasmanian employers.

Alcohol and Drug Service youth alcohol and drug worker Katie Daly said there was evidence that record levels of drug use were filtering into workplaces.

She said many people were unaware their recreational activities could compromise their work and put themselves and others at risk.

“If you are using recreational drugs on the weekend like amphetamines or ecstasy then there is a period of a crash or a comedown that can last for a couple of days and if they are doing dangerous work, they are likely to be unsuitable to work during that period,” Ms Daly said.

She said drug testing should be accompanied by clear drug policies and rehabilitation options.

“The workplace should be doing some of that education by having an alcohol and drug policy in place to make sure their workers are aware of the fact there is a risk that if they are using on the weekend or the night before, then they may still be impaired the next day,” she said.

Metro Tasmania manager risk Tony Jago said the company’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol wasn’t about restricting what workers did in their free time.

We are not the lifestyle police. We just want people to be fit to work during the week and what they do in their spare time is their choice,” Mr Jago said.

“We want to assure people that if they get on a bus, they can be safe with the people behind the wheel.”

Since random testing was introduced in January, all tests have been negative.

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