Weeding out drugs at work
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.