Employers and ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) are legally obligated to manage these risks under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace is a strategy employers can use to manage work health and safety risks. These tests may be random, voluntary, ‘for cause’ testing or another type of test.
Before conducting any testing, it’s important to be mindful of the drug and alcohol testing Australian standards. Employers should also know the different testing options, as well as their rights and limitations when conducting testing on employees.
What are the drug and alcohol testing standards in Australia?
There is no specific standard for workplace drug and alcohol testing. However, employers are legally obligated to eliminate or manage risk associated with drug and alcohol misuse as part of the WHS Act 2011.
Australia has a range of standards related to drug and alcohol testing at work. These provide clear procedures for different methods of testing. Guidelines for equipment, as well as for the handling, disposal and reporting of specimens, are also covered.
These three relevant standards include:
When is drug and alcohol testing appropriate?
Although drug and alcohol testing may be appropriate in a variety of work contexts, it’s essential in high risk and safety-critical jobs. This is because the misuse of drugs and alcohol could harm people in the workplace, as well as the general public.
For example, some aviation industry organisations have a drug and alcohol management plan in place for pilots and air traffic controllers. In addition, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority conducts independent random drug and alcohol testing to audit these programs.
Other occupations that fall into this category include transport drivers (such as train drivers), operators of dangerous machinery, firefighters and military personnel. Workers that handle toxic substances should also be considered.
Managing risk with a drug and alcohol testing policy
If an employer intends to carry out drug and alcohol testing in the workplace in Australia, the workplace should have a drug and alcohol testing policy.
This policy should clearly outline the definitions for acceptable and unacceptable drug and alcohol use. Details on testing, such as when, how and why tests will be conducted, and by whom, should also be stated. Finally, it should outline how results will determine if an employee is unfit for duty and the consequences of a positive test. Employers should take care to include the circumstances where a positive test could result in employee dismissal.
All employees need to be aware of and understand the policy and cooperate with reasonable policies and procedures.