• Chris Anderson
    For those of you that carry out random drug testing...

    • How do you define safety sensitive roles?
    • Would you classify anyone that is driving a company vehicle as being in a safety sensitive role?
    • Has random drug testing had an effect on your workplace health and safety?

    Thanks in advance for you responses.
  • Michelle Dykstra
    Hello Chris,

    Our workplace is about to implement random drug testing. Over the last twelve months we have started doing pre-employment, reasonable cause and post-incident testing. This has made a huge improvement to the safety of our sites and the morale of our teams! Driving incident stats including dropped stock are down! Employment Relations disputes are down! Retention, staff satisfaction and team work is on the up!

    I expect that random drug testing will work to uphold the gains already made as it actively discourages illicit drug use.

    Yes I would classify anyone driving a company vehicle as being in a safety sensitive role.

    Your questions make me wonder about the nature of your business. In my experience with random drug testing, I have had to focus my efforts on defining safety sensitive areas more so than roles. A pedestrian in a safety sensitive area can equally cause a serious accident.

    Feel free to DM me if you would like further information. Regards,
  • Sonya
    Hi Chris, we have had a D&A policy on site for approx. 5 years, covers pre employment, random, post incident and reasonable cause, we made the policy fit the business so safety sensitive covers the whole site and all employees when introduced, which made it easier to roll out and the control and management is simple, rather than breaking it down by areas or tasks, this also includes all management this presents a fair system also to the employees. We have seen reduction in H&S incidents, and culture and morale has improved, employees appreciate the seriousness we take on drugs in the workplace and this shows through commitment to make the workplace drug free. The challenge we are facing is the harder drugs that are used and the fact they are less easy to detect, which takes more than a test, you also need leaders educated on drug use and awareness on the floor to ensure issues are dealt with promptly. Regards
  • Lisa Frost
    Hi Chris,
    We first implemented random drug testing about 8 years ago. Every part of our sites are safety sensitive, aside from the offices. However we felt that it was unfair, to only implement this outside of these areas, and it would cause disharmony with the staff. We gained the approval of all office staff, and implemented this site wise, including ALL management.
    However it did not have the outcome we were hoping. The testing was random, picked by the testing company, but the same people got tested over and over again, causing frustration and the feeling of being picked on by the staff.
    So for the last few years, we have had a drug dog come through the site (on a day where we bring all our offsite staff in). If the dog indicates, then we test, which becomes a reasonable cause test. This has been very successful! All negative feelings have been eliminated, and staff feel much happier. Win win for everyone.
  • Jono Johnson
    Hi Chris,

    We test random across the board i.e. not just safety sensitive roles, and no-one complains.

    The only changes we've experienced have been positive.
  • Lisa Frost

    Hi Carolyn, We use NZ Detector Dogs. I am in Christchurch, and they are based all over NZ as far as I am aware.
  • Lisa Frost

    Yes absolutely. And the staff that do not partake, do not feel victimised (because no matter how you present it, a test is intrusive). As an added bonus, the staff enjoy having the dog around. They are not permitted to engage when he is working, however many take the opportunity for a pat afterwards :)
    The dogs are amazing, we even had an indication for a firearm (turns out they have different indications for different things). After looking into it, one of the staff members was going to the shooting range after hours, and obviously had his gun and ammo in the vehicle. (It was not in the vehicle at the time the dog indicated). They are very very clever!
  • Michael Parker
    Dogs wont indicate on impairment though, will they?
  • Lisa Frost

    There is no test for impairment. You can only go on the limit parameters that are currently set in the guidelines, and in your drug policy.
  • Andrew
    We operate a high trust model. Only drug policy is: "get caught selling drugs on site you're fired". No pre-employment, no random, no post incident (dont have any) no dogs. No judgements made on what people do in their private life. No angst on "safety sensitive" areas - just some areas are more dangerous than other. Business focus is on productive competence.
  • Peter Bateman
    Congratulations! Let's hope more NZ companies adopt this enlightened approach.
  • Tania Curtin
    It sure is a minefield... positive results versus impairment, safety sensitive roles / areas versus not, punitive response versus rehabilitation... and then of course there is the legal minefield of following the correct processes to the letter.

    Unfortunately, this seems to be an area navigated quite poorly in a lot of cases, and sometimes implemented for the wrong reasons.

    I like the idea of Andrew's approach, although I'd definitely be considering just cause and post-incident... not to be used to fire people, but to better understand the risks in the business so they can be tackled.
  • Brian Parker
    I find it interesting that the focus of 'Safety Sensitive' appears to be towards physical safety. What about the safety of the business itself? When we implemented our D&A Policy 2 years ago we considered managers making business decisions 'under the influence' was a potential risk to the future viability of the business (due to either financial losses or legal sanctions). This is particularly important given the very high risk nature of all our operations in the heavy haulage sector. Seeing all their supervisors and managers included in the Policy certainly helped us gain our staff's acceptance of it.
  • Darach Cassidy
    Hi Chris,
    Not sure on the 'safety sensitive' categorisation, I have always struggled with it. We often forget that drug and alcohol management initiatives are control measures to manage risks, and therefore, the need can only be understood through risk assessment, rather than hard-to-define categorisation.
  • Michelle Dykstra
    Hi Darach, I agree that the starting point is a risk assessment, however by law employers need to consider whether the workplace or roles are safety sensitive as this is the justification which deems random drug testing as reasonable. If your site or the work your people are doing is not safety sensitive, random drug testing may not be reasonable.
  • Andrew
    Random drug testing is not reasonable. It is a disturbing invasion of privacy and failure of trust.

    We dont do Random Bank Account Testing, or Random Relationship Checks or Random Are the Kids on the Right Tracks Checks or Random Prescribed Medicine Checks (or random Not Taking Meds Checks) or Random Psyche Checks.

    Keep your sticky beaks out and focus on proper risk management
  • Chris Hewitt

    Not enough has been made of 'weeded out'. That brought a chuckle.
  • G Gillard
    Sorry I'm not convinced. I don't want any of our drivers on the road under the influence of D and A and make no excuses for having a D and A procedures in place.
  • Andrew
    All good. We are each entitled to our own views.

    But you have me a bit worried know especially as I am travelling the roads this summer.

    Seems to me there are untrustworthy drivers out there operating heavy transport. And these drivers might be driving so impaired by drugs or alcohol they might crash into me.

    And the only thing between me and a safe trip is a random drug test turning up a positive result.

    I'm now thinking what is protecting me from that drunk truck driver who dodged the random test.
  • G Gillard
    Absolutely agree, differences of opinion are all part of life.
    I have never considered the reason for a D and A policy being that employees are untrustworthy more around the fact that as humans we all make poor decisions at times, and across a range of industries I have seen it happen time and time again. If we can use any deterrents, we can to contribute to safer roads in NZ then we will do what we can.
  • Andrew
    It should be a given that people make mistakes. It might be from poor decisions or some other reason.

    That's why we create solutions that prevent those mistakes turning into a major problem.

    Strikes me that imposing something random is a very poor way of dealing with this issue.

    (If you think that being caught DIC and losing your licence and therefore losing your job isn't a very good deterrent then how is a random check possibly going to work,. It turns out to be simply a numbers game where drivers are playing the odds. "Safety - The New Workplace Lotto". Just what we need))
  • Rachael
    We have zero tolerence for D & A for all staff and random testing for these and have done for the last 30 years. Ironically our zero-tolerence stand was laughed at by our legal team at the time - lol.

    The difference with our random testing is that the van comes on any site randomly and all operations staff on site at the time are tested. Only one person ever knows when this will happen. It's like wearing PPE - a last chance control, rather than a sole prevention method.

    We only do ops staff because they are the most exposed to critical risks and do not have the physical buffer to protect others from impaired decision-making that our administrative decision makers do.

    Other than that, on the whole, potential D & A influence is treated no differently to fatigue, emotional distress, illness or anything else which impairs the ability of staff to make decisions and undertake their work safely. It is evidenced, then dealt with. That said, we are lucky that we have tight crews who look out for each other and managers who also have the respect and trust of their teams, which makes life a whole lot easier.
  • Andrew
    Hmm. An interesting approach. I would be interested in how you get away with random testing of all staff - I assume they can't all be working in a safety sensitive work area. Safety sensitive, of course being an area where the consequences of an accident could be "catastrophic" (not my word - the word of the current legal authority)

    I didnt even know they did random testing 30 years ago's - gee - you could walk down Lambton Quay at lunchtime and the pubs used to be chocker full of workers.

    We don't have a "zero tolerance", ours is an intolerance. But perhaps that is semantics. But what it means is we don't discriminate on those grounds and we see it more as a health issue - providing assistance to people where their drug and alcohol use (and other things) impacts on our work environment. We've even gone as far as helping one of our alcoholics return to work with an Ankle Bracelet for being done DIC. And I've just hired a dealer not long released from prison.

    I am no sure if the analogy with PPE is helpful. We don't do random issuing of PPE not do we do random checks of PPE. Random Testing is not a prevention / control - as mentioned above it is the "nuclear threat" type of deterrent. Its a really worry that you would potentially have impaired workers who aren't picked up before the Test Van arrives.

    Your last sentence, in the context of Random testing makes no sense at all to me - but perhaps that is simply end of year fatigue on my part.
  • Rachael

    'you could walk down Lambton Quay at lunchtime and the pubs used to be chocker full of workers'. Yep, you could go to any contractor, transport site in the country and there would be the after work beersies. That's one of the reasons the company implemented it so early. Nothing like an 'impaired' truck driver being loaded by an 'impaired' loader driver ;)

    "I would be interested in how you get away with random testing of all staff " - Our policies are loose enough and our teams responsibile enough, to see the benefit of it. It's also in their contracts that anyone can be tested at any time for any reason (I'm paraphrasing).

    "I assume they can't all be working in a safety sensitive work area" - Sorry, but you're assumption is incorrect. Aside from the fact that our guys and girls work under the High Hazards unit, they are also operating multiple items of fixed and mobile plant in a variety of conditions. All failures on our site have the potential to be catastrophic.

    It's compared to PPE because it won't stop the damage if something goes wrong (a hard hat is not particularly helpful against a 50T boulder, a collision between vehicles is damaging whether drivers are impaired or not). However the potential for both (PPE and testing) to be used to prevent the event happening is what counts.

    Agreed - our 'random testing' is a nuclear threat - but if the threat of getting caught is what it takes for a team member to not have that final beer/bourbon/toke on a Sunday, so they are fit for work on Monday morning and able to stop the loader before it hits the pedestrian, who cares what anyone thinks of it?

    I could go on about other forms of impairment, but the OP was about D&A testing so I've stuck with that.

    (there endeth today's blog post - sorry)

  • Tony Walton
    Please correct me if I'm wrong folks, but doesn't the law state or imply that a worker becomes a hazard when under the influence of certain drugs or alcohol? Therefore in dealing with the hazard we are legally required to assess the risk and then apply the hierarchy of controls. So the debate is probably more about which control to use. e.g. What control should we use for administrative staff v drivers v machinery operators? - Same or different?....
  • Andrew
    I agree with you. Which is why I call "bullshit" on random testing. The hazard has not been accurately identified and there is nothing but random "controls".

    If people were serious they would install interlock devices on vehicles and moving plant. With technology you now get interlocks for fixed plant in "safety Sensitive" areas.

    Instead of engineering controls (which is higher up the hierarchy of controls from PPE) we want to make virtue judgements on what people do in their private lives and impose invasions of personal privacy by insisting someone piss in a pot for no just cause.
  • Rachael
    Random testing does not work in isolation from other controls... it is another control used in conjunction with the hierarchy - which was the other reason it was compared with PPE (even though it's an administrative control). Again the OP was about Random D&A testing not 'What controls do we have in place for workers impaired by Drugs and Alcohol'. That would have been a totally different conversation. ;)
  • Andrew
    Ah, yes we do digress. Sadly, we havent got close to answering the OPS questions. I think perhaps because we don't want to face up to "safety sensitive." You seem to have a de-facto "safety sensitive" site through your "high hazards" unit definition. However your examples of a boulder hitting one person or two vehicles hitting each other does not come close to meeting the Safety Sensitive threshold. At worst, one death would be a "tragedy"

    Before the OP can even consider Random drug testing there needs to be a Safety Sensitive site. Its not hard for us to imagine a plane or airport. Hundreds of passengers and $millions in capital and reputation are at risk. This is what "catastrophic" is if things go wrong

    We have guidance from the ERA decision. A $300m plant with 11 full time employees and numerous contractors. Very high temperatures and pressure coming from geothermal steam. Turbines running at very high RPM. There is loads of highly flammable material. And theres large volumes of sulphuric acid on site. Man - if that thing blows she's going to blow in a big way. You would not want an impaired person behind the controls. One wrong move and your looking at a catastrophe.

    How many worksites are like this. Not very many. So the issue of Random Drug testing only applies to outliers - and can't be applied as a norm.

    So, in answer to the Op's question " would you classify anyone that is driving a company vehicle as being in a safety sensitive role" the answer has to be most certainly no.
  • Jono Johnson
    re your very last paragraph i.e. "So, in answer to the Op's question " would you classify anyone that is driving a company vehicle as being in a safety sensitive role" the answer has to be most certainly no", maybe not a safety sensitive role but certainly a safety sensitive "task" and thus will justify random drug testing.

    For what it's worth though I do see your point(s) and am waiting to see how this all goes once marijuana is legalised...
  • Andrew
    Oh dear. Seems I'm going to start the new year in disagreement - and my resolution was to be more agreeable.

    So in the spirit of my new years resolution I do agree - driving is likely to be a safety sensitive task. As are very many tasks in our workplaces - which don't give us the ability to randomly test.

    If we look at MBIE's definition they say "Safety-sensitive tasks are ones where impaired performance, for whatever reason, could result in an incident affecting the safety of staff or participants.You must consider whether a staff member performing a task poses a risk of significant harm to themselves or others."

    This is quite different from a Safety Sensitive role, For this we rely on a higher authority - the 2012 ERA decision which defines the consequences as needing to be "catastrophic". This is a much higher level of harm than "serious"

    To randomly test a person must be in a safety sensitive role or area. A "task" is a subset of "Role" and does not meet the higher "Suspicionless testing " threshold.

    If you took my approach, the introduction of legalised marijuana use will make no difference. We shouldn't be poking our noses into what people do in their weekends now - just because it will be legalised gives us no greater opportunity to pry and judge. If you focus on "impairment" new legislation won't create any difference for you.
  • Rachael
    Maybe if we stop looking at Drug and Alcohol testing as a control per-se and start seeing it as a method of identifying and monitoring risk (as with other health monitoring) the conversations around its use can become less defensive and more productive?

    Happy New Year :)
Add a Comment

Welcome to the Safeguard forum!

If you are interested in workplace health & safety in New Zealand, then this is the discussion forum for you.