Testing the urine of workers in order to detect drug and alcohol use has been banned by the Fair Work Commission which found employees at Endeavour Energy are to be tested using saliva swabs instead.
Last week the Fair Work Commission refused Endeavour Energy's bid to urine test its 2635 employees.
The commission labelled the use of urine tests “unjust and unreasonable” in a case which could have wider implications for a range of industries, including mining.
Endeavour Energy launched the latest legal action in October last year, with the matter heard in the Fair Work Commission in December. The company was attempting to vary the original decision, which required the use of oral testing, with urine based testing.
The Electrical Trades Union said the decision confirmed two previous court rulings that found the use of urine test was unfair because it could detect drug use from days earlier, rather than more recent use that could lead to impairment at work.
ETU NSW deputy secretary Neville Betts said the decision highlighted that the role of drug and alcohol testing in the workplace should be about identifying potential impairment, rather than disciplining staff for private actions taken in their own time.
“While oral testing accurately identifies recent drug use, where an individual may be impaired in their abilities, urine tests unfairly monitor workers’ private lives by potentially showing a positive result even where a substance may have been used many days prior, in a private capacity,” Betts said.
“This is the third time the courts have ruled in favour of the ETU on this issue, despite Endeavour Energy spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to force urine testing on their staff.
“This most recent decision absolutely cements this legal precent that has wide-ranging ramifications not only for the electricity sector, but for every industry that carries out drug and alcohol testing, in particular mining, aviation, transport and emergency services.
“In recent years drug testing of employees has become increasingly common, both in the public sector and private enterprise, which is why making sure the practice is done as fairly as possible is so important.
Endeavour Energy's chief executive Vince Graham said the ruling contradicted a 2011 decision by which found in favour of a coalmining employer's right to conduct urine testing, Newcastle Herald reported.
In that case, the commission found urine testing was more accurate.
"Mine workers and electricity workers both work in potentially dangerous conditions and yet different drug testing methods have been ordered by the [Fair Work Commission]," Graham said.
Originally posted at: http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/union-puts-rio-bhp-and-woodside-on-notice-about-ur
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has put major mining companies on notice as it fights against the use of urine tests for the detection of drugs and alcohol.
The AMWU says it is planning court challenges against miners who use urine tests to detect substances such as cannabis, cocaine, and heroin in their workers.
It claims the method is too intrusive and says urine tests are unfair because it can detect drug use from days earlier, rather than more recent use that could lead to impairment at work.
AMWU secretary Steve McCartney said union members preferred saliva testing, The West Australian reported.
"We will be taking them all on because we owe it to our membership," he said.
"You can tell Rio Tinto, Woodside and BHP (Billiton) that they can be expecting to hear from us."
The move comes after a recent ruling by the Fair Work Commission banned the use of urine tests for the detection of drugs and alcohol for workers at the NSW Government-owned electricity network company Endeavour Energy.
The commission labelled the use of urine tests “unjust and unreasonable” and ordered the company to conduct testing for substances via saliva instead.
It is believed the AMWU will use the precedent of this case in its fight.
However the Association of Mines and Metals executive director of policy, Scott Barklamb, fears a move to saliva testing could undermine safety on mine sites.
Barklamb said the Fair Work Commission should not have the right to take decisions about drug testing away from management.
"AMMA strongly believes that the only suitable people to be making decisions about which drug and alcohol testing method is best suited to maintaining a safe workplace are the people directly involved in running those workplaces," he said.
"It is not the expertise or role of an employment tribunal, or an employer association, or a union boss to make critically important operational decisions regarding the safety of someone else's employees."
An opinion piece about the role of drug testing on mine sites was met with mixed reactions by Australian Mining readers.
Some say urine testing is unfair because it can detect small amounts of substances that are no longer having an effect on the user.
“I would be pissed off if they could sack me for being drunk 3 days ago,” one reader said.
“I don't really care about what people do in their own time. If they're not affected when they turn up to work, that's all that matters to me. I don't condone drug use or excessive alcohol consumption, but I also don't think that your employer should have a say in your activities outside of work,” another stated.
However others were not so forgiving, stating that even a small amount of residual drugs in a person’s system had the potential to cause impairments at work.
“Do what you want on your time, but drugs last in your system for a reason, and the impairment can last a while.” One Facebook commentator said.
“Instant dismissal no verbal warning no written warnings on ya bike my livelihood & safety far outweighs some drugged up lunatic,” another argued.
Class of Drug
Cut-off Level µg/L (urine)
Amphetamine type substances
Nice numbers, but what do they mean?
Firstly, the µg/L sign symbolizes micrograms/litre. Drug testing normally involves establishing the concentration of a drug above a certain level rather than just finding the presence of the drug. Interestingly, not many people are aware of this! A “cut-off” is the concentration of a drug at or above which is deemed positive by a laboratory analysis for that drug. Cut-offs are set for laboratory standardisation purposes, the detection period and to exclude defences based upon passive inhalation.
Determining your likely toxicity level is by no means an exact science. People often fall into the trap of just looking at a detection period table and expecting that the time period stated in the table will apply to them. Everybody is different — your situation will differ from others. The time taken to clear naturally from toxins will varely greatly dependent upon the length of exposure to toxins, body fat ratio, general health, lifestyle, strength of toxin, route of administration and many other decisive factors. PassMyDrugTest.com.au have made things as easy as possible for you with an inbuilt calculator to give you an idea of how likely you are to be above, at or below the Australia cut-off levels for drug tests
Drug testing Cut-off levels can be different between Organisations
Some organisations reserve the right to adopt different cut-off levels for various drug classes. This means that anybody purchasing a home test kit should check the relevant cut-off level that might apply before selecting a particular test. Naturally it can be a waste of time and money relying upon a test kit if it uses a different cut-off level to what is actually applied in a policy. In saying that, we have yet to find a reported case in Australia that does not follow the cut-off levels as provided for in the Standards.
The cut-off levels are not exactly the same between countries, for example the opiate cut-off level for urine testing in the United States is 2000ng/ml whereas the cut-off level in Australia for the same drug is 300ng/ml. This is a fairly dramatic difference (US is 666% higher than Australia).
If you’re interested to know more you can read the Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 4308:2008). You will most likely be required to pay a fee for a copy of this document. Remember, you can always use the contact us if you have any questions.