History has been made in the US following the passing of laws in both Colorado and Washington which legalise both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. Australia is yet to pass any similar legislation. Drug use remains illegal in all states and territories, and therein lies the issue for employers.
The use of marijuana by employees has ramifications for the workplace in a number of ways, and principal among them are the safety concerns that arise when a worker is under the influence of a substance, especially when in the operation of machinery. Drug testing is essential to ensure the safety of workers, but according to a new report, current testing practices are inefficient and often lead to workers simply changing drugs or avoiding reporting incidents.
National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction deputy director Ken Pidd said there is currently little evidence to support the view that current testing practices are effective. Dr Pidd said the central issue is that workers routinely change their consumption patterns or drug types to avoid detection. “Drug testing could be contributing to the increase in synthetic drug use such as Jack3d and Kronic, and pharmaceutical drug misuse,” Dr Pidd said.
Western Australia, where many mining companies routinely conduct urine tests, had the highest rate of methamphetamine use, the report found.
Yet drug testing is in many ways a reactive response rather than proactive response. “Some employers incorrectly think that drug testing is required to meet their workplace health and safety obligations. What they do need are high quality education and training programs which help develop a workplace culture conducive to health and safety,” Dr Pidd said.
Unions Tasmania president Kevin Harkins is calling for an end to in-house testing, and said any drug tests that are needed should be outsourced to avoid discrimination or targeting individuals. “Testing must be totally independent. We don't support companies doing it themselves. And it should be done across the board, from the top of the organisation,” Harkins told The Mercury
Dr Pidd added that there is evidence that less serious accidents are not being reported for fear of post-incident drug tests – he is presenting the findings of his report at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs conference in Melbourne today.
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