A RECENT survey of more than 50 AMMA member companies has revealed a range of trends and common concerns relating to managing the impacts of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, including the increased prevalence of drug use in general society and testing for synthetic substances.

da-survey-cover-imageThe AMMA Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey, initiated by AMMA’s Board Reference Group in early 2016, was rolled out across the industry to gather up-to-date information about drug and alcohol testing policies, their efficacy and the most pressing challenges being faced by employers.

Set to present the findings at the Ports Australia Conference in Melbourne on 19 October, AMMA’s director of workplace relations, Amanda Mansini says while employers are effectively managing the workplace risks, increased societal use of both illicit and prescription drugs is creating challenges.

“Despite most resource employers recording low instances of positive or non-negative tests, convincing employees to make sensible lifestyle choices outside the workplace remains a significant challenge in managing the potential impact of drugs and alcohol,” Ms Mansini says.

“Employers are communicating the message but find a small portion are not taking into account the risks that using drugs outside the workplace presents to their safety and their colleagues’ safety once on site.

“It is also telling that at least 50 per cent of respondents reported that employment laws and union opposition have impacted on their ability to implement the drug and alcohol testing policy of their choice.

“The results back AMMA’s longstanding position that as the people responsible for creating a safe work environment, employers and site managers must be supported in choosing the drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures that they deem most suitable for their individual workplaces.”

The majority (64 per cent) of respondents were large businesses having 200 or more people in their workforces including employees, contractors and casuals. Along with increased social acceptance of the use of prescription and illicit drugs posing a particular challenge in managing risks at workplaces, other challenges included:

  • Uncertainty around the ability for testing to keep up with rapidly changing synthetic substances, with 40 per cent of respondents testing for synthetic cannabis.
  • Ensuring disciplinary outcomes were consistently applied, fair and equitable.
  • Employees using masking agents or ‘fake’ urine samples in an attempt to ‘beat the system’.
  • Employees not realising the importance of declaring prescription medication to employers.
  • Uncertainty of Australian Standards for saliva testing, raising practical, legal and sensitivity concerns.
  • Maintaining education and awareness among transient contractor workforces.

Other key findings about employers’ use of drug and alcohol testing include:

  • 92 per cent conducted or participated in a client’s onsite alcohol testing, and 89 per cent conducted or participated in a client’s onsite drug testing.
  • Urine (90 per cent) and breath (88 per cent) testing were preferred, with just 41 per cent using saliva testing (although these results are not mutually exclusive).
  • 65 per cent take a ‘zero tolerance’ tolerance approach to drug and alcohol testing, compared to 26 per cent taking a ‘harm minimisation’ approach weighing each incidence on circumstances and risk.
  • 77 per cent had sites where drug and alcohol testing was mandatory prior to work starting.
  • 92 per cent undertake ‘random’ testing as part of their suite of drug and alcohol testing.

Click here to view the full set of findings from the AMMA Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey 2016.

AMMA employee relations consultants will cover the survey findings in more detail at various AMMA Industry Briefings taking place in November and December. Click here to register. In the meantime, for more information on the survey, please contact AMMA principal adviser – workplace policy, Lisa Matthews on (03) 6270 2256 or [email protected].