Confusion over workplace substance tests

by 23 Apr 2012

The outcome of an appeal against a controversial Fair Work Australia (FWA) ruling could determine whether employers will be restricted in their ability to administer appropriate on-site drug and alcohol testing procedures.

According to the peak body for employers in the resource industry, the AMMA, the recent decision by Fair Work Australia (FWA) to only allow Endeavour Energy to conduct saliva-based drug tests, as opposed to urine tests, is contradictory to previous rulings by the arbitrator.

In a previous tribunal hearing involving HWE Mining, FWA ruled that urine testing was more accurate and less likely to produce false negatives. “The contradictory decisions are not helping employers gain confidence in their ability to properly manage drug and alcohol issues, particularly when the experts have shown saliva testing is more likely to produce false negatives, meaning some workers significantly impaired under the influence of drugs will not be detected,” Steve Knott from the AMMA said.

According to Knott, Queensland, WA and NSW remain the only Australian states to have not yet abandoned proposals for a default drug and alcohol testing regime based on saliva-only under state mine safety laws. “If the findings in the Endeavour Energy case are upheld on appeal, it will undermine employers’ ability to implement the drug and alcohol system of their choice and strengthen the union push against onsite urine testing,” he added.


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