Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing in Australia: A Fact Sheet
What is Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing?
Workplace drug and alcohol testing is the practice of testing employees, contractors and visitors for the presence of drugs and alcohol applying cutoff concentrations detailed in the relevant Australian/New Zealand technical Standards and workplace policy and procedure. The aim of drug and alcohol testing is to ensure workplace safety and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries that may be the result of workers affected by drugs, or workers that might be above the prescribed levels as described in the policy and procedures.
Why is Drug and Alcohol Testing Important in Safety Critical Industries?
Drug and alcohol testing is particularly important in safety critical industries, such as mining, transport, aviation, and construction. Workers in these industries operate heavy machinery, work in dangerous environments, and handle hazardous materials. Those affected by drugs likely to impair their performance are at a higher risk of accidents and injuries, which can have devastating consequences for themselves, colleagues and the wider community.
Drug and alcohol testing helps to identify the risk posed by a worker who may be affected by drugs and or alcohol, before they present a risk to themselves and others, and provides employers with an opportunity to intervene and where appropriate and offer support. Well supported drug and alcohol testing programmes provide a deterrent to those employees who may use drugs and alcohol from doing so while at work, and promotes a culture of safety and responsibility.
What are the Types of Drug and Alcohol Testing?
There are several types of drug and alcohol testing methods, including:
- Urine Testing: Urine testing is non-invasive and detects a range of drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, opioids, and amphetamines. Detection periods are longer than oral fluid.
- Oral Fluid Testing: Oral fluid drug testing is another non-invasive method, and detects recent drug use, relevant to the time of testing.
- Breath Testing: Breath testing is used to detect recent use of alcohol. It is non-invasive and provides a rapid result, including an accurate blood alcohol content reading.
- Hair Testing: Hair testing detects drug use over a longer period than urine or oral fluid testing. Hair samples are sent for laboratory testing, and will take a longer time to report a result. This method is more expensive than other testing methods.
What are the Australian Based Statistics on Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing?
According to the Australian Drug Foundation, drug and alcohol use in the workplace is a significant problem in Australia. Here are some key statistics:
- 5% of Australian workers reported using drugs in the previous 12 months.
- 2% of Australian workers reported using drugs at work in the previous 12 months.
- 70% of workplaces in Australia have a drug and alcohol policy in place.
- In safety critical industries, such as mining and construction, drug and alcohol use is a leading cause of workplace accidents and injuries.
- In 2018-2019, alcohol and drug use contributed to 2,550 worker fatalities and 27,000 serious claims for workers’ compensation in Australia.
Drug and alcohol testing is an important tool in ensuring workplace safety in safety critical industries. It helps to identify workers who may be a risk from the use of drugs that might be above the prescribed levels as described in the policy and procedures, deter drug and alcohol use, and promote a culture of safety and responsibility. Employers in Australia and New Zealand are encouraged to develop and implement drug and alcohol policies and testing programs to ensure a safe workplace and have drug and alcohol tests performed that conform to the relevant Australian and New Zealand drug and alcohol testing standards.