Weed­ing out drugs at work

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Front Page -

He says the most com­mon drug found in ap­pli­cants’ sys­tems is mar­i­juana, ac­count­ing for 78 per cent of the fail­ures na­tion­wide, fol­lowed by am­phet­a­mines at 30 per cent and opi­ates at 4 per cent.

The num­bers are par­tic­u­larly bad in Queens­land, where 35 per cent of ap­pli­cants fail the drug and al­co­hol test, fol­lowed by New South Wales with 31 per cent.

Brown says the worst of­fend­ers are man­u­fac­tur­ing process work­ers and ma­chine op­er­a­tors, with 58 per cent fail­ing the test, fol­lowed by fork­lift op­er­a­tors with a 53 per cent fail­ure rate and truck driv­ers at 34 per cent.

But QML Pathol­ogy di­rec­tor of bio­chem­istry and tox­i­col­ogy Dr Charles Ap­ple­ton says there can be prob­lems with test­ing regimes.

Ap­ple­ton car­ries out drug and al­co­hol tests for a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries.

He says ini­tial screen­ing tests show only the classes of drugs in a per­son’s sys­tem, and may re­turn false pos­i­tives for le­gal med­i­ca­tions such as the painkiller codeine and pseudo- ephedrine, which is com­monly found in cold and flu tablets.

He says com­pa­nies that test em­ploy­ees for drugs should have con­tracts in place with lab­o­ra­to­ries such as QML that can carry out fur­ther tests to iden­tify the spe­cific drug in the sys­tem and make sure no false pos­i­tives are acted on.

‘‘When we’re in the mid­dle of a cold or flu epi­demic, 80 or 90 per cent of folk who come up pos­i­tive for opi­ates, we’ll find they are not us­ing heroin or mor­phine. About half of folk who come up pos­i­tive for metham­phetamines, am­phet­a­mines or ec­stasy, we’ll find they have not used il­le­gal drugs,’’ he says.

Wil­son says the pos­si­bil­ity of false pos­i­tives can be a le­gal mine­field for

com­pa­nies which leave them­selves open to lit­i­ga­tion un­less they have com­plaint pro­cesses in place such as sec­ondary test­ing..

‘‘If you don’t have a fair process ap­plied, peo­ple can seek re­dress if they’re un­fairly ex­cluded from a job,’’ he says.

TEST­ING TIMES: Labour­force So­lu­tions man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Re­gan Brown with the DrugCheck test kit.

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