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UpdatesNov 09, 2018

How to implement your drug and alcohol policy effectively?

Drug and alcohol testing is common in high-risk workplaces such as the mining, manufacturing and construction industries.

In Australia, the most common type of workplace alcohol and drug tests involve testing of urine.

By Charles Power

Drug and alcohol testing

Drug and alcohol testing is common in high-risk workplaces such as the mining, manufacturing and construction industries.

In Australia, the most common type of workplace alcohol and drug tests involve testing of urine.

An issue with urine testing is that it may detect recreational, out-of-work drug use rather than actual impairment at work.

AMWU v Arnott’s Biscuits Ltd (2018)

In AMWU v Arnott’s Biscuits Ltd (2018) unions challenged the employer’s proposal to introduce a urine drug testing regime for reasonable cause, post-incident, pre-employment and return-to-work testing. The union’s argued that oral fluid testing should be used because it was a better test of impairment.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled it should not interfere in the decision of management to use urine testing on the basis that it did not cause an unjust or unfair outcome for workers.

The FWC noted:

The FWC concluded that the high-risk environment of the workplace (and the impact that a person impaired by drugs could have on safety) outweighed the risk that urine testing may identify the use of illicit drugs in non-work time.

Remember, you do not have a legal right to direct employees to submit to an alcohol or drug tests. If you force an employee to submit to a drug test you may be liable to have committed a criminal or civil assault.

However, you do have the right to implement reasonable drug and alcohol policy and carry out testing procedures in order to meet your duty to provide a workplace that is safe for those who work in it.

Your drug and alcohol policy must be reasonable to be enforceable.

A good start is to comply with the applicable Australian Standards. The applicable standard depends on the type of testing, as shown below:

Type of testingApplicable Australian Standard
UrineAS/NZS 4308:2008
SalivaAS 4760:2006
AlcoholAS 3547:1997

If your employee breaches your drug or alcohol policy (by a non-negative test or refusing to submit to a test) you may be able to dismiss him or her for failing to follow a lawful and reasonable direction.

You will minimise your risk of challenge to this dismissal under the Fair Work Act unfair dismissal laws in the following circumstances:

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