• Peter Bateman
    105
    In the Jan/Feb edition of Safeguard magazine, lawyers Kylie Dunn and Bella Moore suggest it could be time to abandon the notion of safety-sensitive areas when it comes to random drug testing, or at least to extend it to management roles. (Read it here.)

    Should random drug testing be extended to everyone, or still be limited?

    You can respond in public here on the Forum, or privately here via a Survey Monkey form.

    An edited selection of responses will be published in the March/April edition, but with no names attached. One randomly selected person will receive a prize, namely a copy of the latest book by Andrew Hopkins, Organising for Safety - How structure creates culture.
  • Andrew
    230
    Or not done at all!
  • Chris Anderson
    38
    With random drug testing it is important to balance people's rights to privacy, and safety concerns in the workplace. With the introduction of the oral-fluid testing standard in 2019 some of the privacy concerns are remedied as the period of time the testing covers is reduced.

    I think if management are expecting their workers in safety sensitive roles to undergo random drug and alcohol testing, they themselves should also sign up for the testing as a means of leading my example. From a health and safety perspective I can't see how subjecting staff in non-safety sensitive roles to random drug and alcohol testing can be justified, this seems like it would come under a performance issue and should be dealt with that way on a case by case basis.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    135
    Shouldn't we be advocating a system to reliably and meaningfully identify level of impairment, which is the key issue behind drug testing anyway??
  • MattD2
    79
    It is frustrating to say the least that the conversation is being had over "should we be able to randomly (without reason) test more people for drugs in our workplace" whilst most companies consider workplace stress / wellbeing to be one of their biggest "critical risks", yet do little more than try to identify and treat the symptoms once the damage has already started to be done.
    Substance abuse is a common indication of potential deeper issues (stress / mental illness). It is disingenuous to talk about care for the wellbeing of your workers, whilst also considering how to weed out the drug taking trouble makers from your workforce.

    Lets start actually doing something about improving the mental health and resilience of our workers (not just trying to bandage the symptoms with EAP and mental health first aid) by taking a look at what the actual stressors and issues in our workers lives are, and if our expectations/rules are adding to those unnecessarily.
  • Jon Harper-Slade
    35
    None of this really helps us treat our people with the respect and care they deserve. Some lawyers and H&S practitioners are guilty of being purveyors of fear and anxiety using 'compliance' as their tool of torture.

    (I made the following comment regarding the Drug and Alcohol issue on LinkedIn recently and have pasted it below)

    The workplace drug and alcohol debate is distracted by an unhelpful focus on (and even prejudice around) the type of substance.

    The discussion in my view is in two clear places:

    1. A safety focus (impairment prevention - particularly around driving, machinery operation, and other operations where impaired function will influence operational safety); and

    2. A health focus (factors influencing substance misuse, overuse, or abuse).

    In order to have a sensible debate their are a few key facts to consider:

    • There is no clear evidence of a correlation between substances and workplace deaths or serious injuries.
    • 99% of our people are good people and deserve to be treated as such. The policing mentality around drugs and alcohol is likely to be having a negative effect on attracting people to and retaining people.
    • Our people are more likely to be impaired through fatigue and mental health issues rather than substance impairment. I see lots of resources poured into drug testing/detection dogs, but little into checks for tired and stressed workers.
  • Bruce Tollan
    17
    Is there any evidence that drug testing has reduced workplace deaths and injuries? A look at ACC stats would indicate no! Over 10 years of drug testing safety sensitive workers and people are still dying and being injured at alarming rates.
  • Bruce Tollan
    17
    An interesting perspective from europe
    Attachment
    ilo-ethical-issues-in-workplace-drug-testing-in-europe (39K)
  • Jon Harper-Slade
    35
    The current research confirms that the proportion of occupational injuries attributed to acute substance use is relatively small. What is more likely is that workers who engage in harmful, substance-using behaviours may be more likely to take risks at work.

    What that means is that there is mounting evidence that harmful substance use is one of a constellation of behaviours exhibited by certain individuals who may avoid work-related safety precautions and take greater work related risks. It is more likely that risk-taking dispositions, often termed deviance proneness, and other omitted factors can explain most empirical associations between substance use and injuries at work.

    Source: Ramchand et al (2009) The Effects of Substance Use on Workplace Injuries RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, USA
  • Bruce Tollan
    17
    If we include alcohol in harmful substance using behaviours then over 75% of the population could be idetified as deviance prone.
  • Marie Fleming
    7
    Where i come from all levels of management and contractors are subjected to this process. However, statistically through incidents we have endured, and some have been high potential, not one has returned a non-negative drug or alcohol result. So why do we test for these when we know it is highly unlikely it will be a root cause? For me its about workers understanding what is required of them through their specific activities, their expected level of behavior and their overall attitude to safety.
  • MattD2
    79
    So why do we test for these when we know it is highly unlikely it will be a root cause?Marie Fleming
    And besides being under the influence of drugs/alcohol should never be considered the root cause of an incident anyway.
  • MattD2
    79
    Would be great if you could extend the conversation in the upcoming article to consider the other side of the discussion for getting rid of random testing completely... I assume it isn't likely as it is probably already out to print, but maybe a follow up counter-article in the Mar-Apr edition?
  • Peter Bateman
    105
    Later this year - in the May/June edition - the magazine will take a look at workplace drug testing in the context of the marijuana referendum to be held at the same time as the general election, announced yesterday to be held on 19 September.
  • Andrew
    230
    I'd be much more interested in "Impairment Testing"
  • MattD2
    79
    I'd be much more interested in "Impairment Testing"Andrew
    Agree with that - the results of the referdum / any law change will potentially cause some headaches for any companies with D&A testing process which are based on a "well it's illegal so you shouldn't be doing it" approach rather than actually considering if there is impairment or not.
  • Andrew
    230
    I havent read the safeguard article yet - so this may already have been covered.

    The upcoming issue is that we are shifting from an illegal drug environment to a "health" environment - that is, if you smoke dope you have a health problem rather than behaving illegally.

    The moment it becomes a health problem it comes under the Human Rights Act - that is we can't discriminate or disadvantage people on the basis of their health / illness status. Indeed we are required to make reasonable accommodations.

    Dope is going to be like tobacco - so have are we going to separate our Smokers Area so the Tobacco / Vapers arent exposed to dope? (And isn't vaping at work a whole different story)

    Safety Sensitive areas aside the future of random drug testing is likely to be a sunset industry. What we need is the 2021 version of "walking a straight line test"
  • MattD2
    79
    What we need is the 2021 version of "walking a straight line test"Andrew
    Well there are apparently a few apps already available to stop you from making a fool of yourself by drunk-texting... I'm sure something could be adapted!
  • Caroline Hodges
    2
    I'd like to offer some information around how my company approach this topic; it is by no means perfect, but I think we are doing a good job and always looking to improve. Drug and alcohol testing has always been a bit of an ethical conundrum for our lead team; we want our people to be able to conduct their work without being negatively influenced by substances (and this is legal or otherwise), but we also don't want to dictate the choices people make in their own time. Being in the construction and utility sector, drug and alcohol testing is a focus for many hiring clients and random testing is expected. With the recent release of an oral fluid testing standard, we have amended our approach to oral fluid to try and better infer impairment at the time of an incident or while at work in general.There are still shortfalls with this approach but we feel this is a better way forward than urine testing in most cases. Our random testing programme includes all staff, including our GM and SDMs. Following on from that, as someone has mentioned already, substance abuse is an issue in itself and whether someones impairment has specifically led to/had potential to lead to an incident or not, once we learn someone may need support, we feel it is our responsibility to offer the resources we have on hand. We have a rehabilitation programme that employees can choose to participate in. As well as this, we provide support and information to our teams so that they have as much as information as we can provide to make informed decisions about their own health. We try and take a holistic approach to this topic and are aware that there isn't a one size fits all. With advances in impairment testing options, we are starting to feel a little more comfortable but for us, it's really about understanding what has led to someone being impaired at work, can we do anything to support, and if not, what are the impacts of this. I hope this sheds a little positive spin on the topic. Cheers.
  • Jon Harper-Slade
    35
    Fortunately, deviance proneness doesn't work that way. It is likely that drug and alcohol testing appears to be effective because people (a tiny minority of the working population) who are likely to steal, be violent, break rules, be disruptive, deliberately sabotage work, be reckless etc. are also likely to abuse/misuse substances like drugs and alcohol; therefore D&A testing removes these (deviance prone) people from the workplace; unfortunately it does this along with removing others who do not have this deviance prone association and are unlikely to affect the work environment in that way. In short D&A testing is likely to have a small positive effect on safety (just not for the reasons most think it does) and is likely to be having a negative affect that outweighs any benefit. There are other ways to identify deviance prone people in an organisation other than D&A testing that will not adversely affect people we want to keep and have the same effect (and it's probably cheaper).
  • Andrew
    230
    There is of course another side to this coin Jon.

    On one side the testing roots out the deviants and the good people and potentially removes them from the work environment.

    On the other side of the coin is deviants and good people don't apply for jobs with companies with (random) testing. This isn't a problem at the deviant level - but employers are missing out on many good hires due to this policy.

    The unintended consequences is that the "good" people who do get hired can potentially just be "yes" conformist type people. Who are not necessarily innovators, risk takers or even thinkers - the type of people business needs to flourish.
  • MattD2
    79
    There are other ways to identify deviance prone people in an organisation other than D&A testing that will not adversely affect people we want to keep and have the same effect (and it's probably cheaper).Jon Harper-Slade
    But the other ways are seen to take a lot more personal effort than just randomly asking someone to pee in a cup... and generally don't have as much visibility of effectiveness to senior management / boards as pinging a "deviant" druggie.

    The unintended consequences is that the "good" people who do get hired can potentially just be "yes" conformist type people. Who are not necessarily innovators, risk takers or even thinkers - the type of people business needs to flourish.Andrew
    It makes me think that there is a good chance that those in leadership positions that are making the decisions to use random dug testing are themselves the "yes" conformist type people and are not necessarily innovators, risk takers or even thinkers - the type of people business needs to flourish.
  • Peter Bateman
    105
    The Safeguard piece by Kylie Dunn and Bella Moore is now available here.
  • Andrew
    230
    Thnask Peter
    My nice paper magazine arrived in the mail and being a bit of an old fuddy duddy I've taken an opportunity to read the old media version.

    There were a couple of things in the article I reckon worth more specific comment.

    The authors say "the impact of changing attitudes to health and safety (...) may lead to the courts....". I take from this that where there is a general consensus exhibited through attitude then the courts should be swayed by that consensus. Consensus DOES NOT mean the view is correct. If the courts are to be swayed then they must be swayed only by testable evidence to establish the fact.

    The authors then mention some new test that apparently detects impairment through identifying molecules of THC. I would be looking for something much more robust than that. Where is the evidence that having molecules of THC means a person is impaired from doing the job they are employed to do?

    It is a ludicrous and dangerously long bow to suggest some office bound CFO is in a "Safety sensitive" area when making a safety equipment purchase decision. For a start the manufacturers of that equipment are already required to look at the safety aspects. And the CFO, broadly speaking, is only a signatory - you would hope people skilled in the tasks where the equipment is going to be applied would have been thoroughly consulted before hand. So if aircraft engineers in a safety sensitive area say a piece of equipment is good to go then it does not matter where the CFO signs the purchase order. The nebulous "safety sensitivity" has already been addressed

    We should never ever forget that random testing is without a doubt an invasion of privacy and it is done without suspicion. It is an extraordinarily dangerous precedent that we should be considering managing a person with no just cause. Imagine where it could lead. You could have people in senior positions calling someone a "rapist" with no evidence. Nah. Forget that. That would never happen!
  • EmmaB
    9
    In Aviation, random testing is part of a larger strategy - Alcohol and other drugs...the testing is supported by a requirement in individual contracts not tk work while impaired by drugs. If you are prescribed drugs that may impair you, both need to be declared through the business medical management system, and if randimlyvtested these drugs are taken into account. The company reviewing can ggen provide additional support to the the person concerned.
    In terms of 'what is a safety sensitive position?' In my view and experience, all positions are safety sensitive and in my opinion all personnel including top management should be liable for testing...decisions making has widespread impacts and are not limited to personnel operating machinery...
  • Andrew
    230
    The legal position established by the ERA in 2012 is that a safety sensitive site is = "the exposure to hazards and risks is high, and the consequences of an accident or incident at the site could be catastrophic."

    The case did not specifically apply a definition to a "Safety Sensitive Position", though my interpretation of that case is that it is any position, that poses a higher degree of risk to their own or the safety of others, for the time in which it finds itself in a safety sensitive site.

    It was made clear that a distinction could be drawn (for the purposes of defining "Safety Sensitive") between an office based role possibly on another site with a position that was engaged in a role that that may pose a higher degree of risk to their own or the safety of others

    This, in my view points back to the work site being the thing to note. You could have a person working on a safety sensitive site doing dangerous things and he could be subject to random testing. But if that same person is not doing dangerous things on another non-safety sensitive site, then you can't. Conversely you could have an office based role doing safe things on a safety sensitive site and that person couldn't be subject to random testing.

    That's the broad ruler over which the facts of a particular situation need to be run over.

    As a foot note, I quite like the Canadian Supreme Court who in 2013 ruled you can't do random drug testing (of unionised workers) in a safety sensitive site unless there is either cause ( eg an accident or a person appeared to be under the influence, or as part of a rehab programme) or there is a recognised drug or alcohol problem.
  • EmmaB
    9
    Interesting, thank you for the clarification.

    My perspective is that a person in procurement, say, who is purchasing materials for use in safety sensitive environments needs to be fully aware of their actions lest they purchase something that will prove an issue. Given that I have always worked in aviation, and that Reason's cheeses described the fallibility of the system, that logic has always worked for me. In addition, it removes the them and us aspect.
    With respect to legality of having random testing regimes, some regulators make it a requirement to have a regime, and they also conduct random testing themselves... having worked cincurrently under both CASA and FAA regulations, which are more stringent than CAANZ, i find it easier to operate in a 'all of one company approach'. However as I move into the wider community, I will take the information you have provided as my framework for future reference...
  • Darach Cassidy
    8
    A great conversation!

    For me, 'safety sensitive' does not cut the mustard. The foundation for what we do is identifying foreseeable risks, assessing them and implementing effective controls. Impairment, whether through taking drugs or other means may be a contributory/ escalation factor to increased risk.

    Therefore, the need for intervention measures (whatever they may be) should be an output from robust risk assessment. This may cut through some of the subjectivity and strong feelings on this topic.
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