Urine tests to be replaced by mouth swab tests by employers
THE indignity of being marched to a special cubicle to pee in a jar - the most common way an increasing number of employers test for drug use - will be replaced by mouth swabs for 200 Shell staff in a breakthrough ruling that could also provide greater privacy for other workers.
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has ruled that Shell cannot take urine samples when it introduces random drug testing of employees in safety-critical areas at its Clyde refinery and Gore Bay terminal, and should instead test saliva - a less intrusive method used by police to test passing motorists for drugs.
Quite apart from focusing on a less embarrassing bodily fluid, the saliva tests only detect very recent drug use, so are unlikely to pick up recreational weekend or holiday drug taking.
Edward Wray-Bliss, a lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney's school of management, who has researched the topic internationally, described the verdict as "enlightened".
"This is a very important decision for rolling back and giving that extra privacy that an employee should have in their own time," he said.
In an arbitration between the CFMEU Mining and Energy Union and Shell, the commission found that "a positive oral fluid test is far more likely to indicate actual impairment than a positive urine test".
The union's national legal officer, Judy Gray, said: "With something like marijuana, somebody who used it weeks before attending work, possibly in a jurisdiction where it is decriminalised, comes back to work with no impairment and suddenly they are being urine tested and … on their way to a dismissal."
She added: "It is the beginning of winding back this managerial prerogative."
Mr Wray-Bliss said an independent inquiry into the increased use of random drug testing in the workplace in Britain in 2004, in response to an influx of US drug testing companies there, found there was no justification for urine tests to police employees' private lives, and there was no strong link between drug use and accidents in safety-critical areas. Instead, lack of sleep and excessive workloads were more likely to be accident factors.
"Drug testing - intervening into an employee's body, breaking that corporal boundary … at the moment the evidence for it is not there."
Source - http://www.smh.com.au/national/drug-test-ruling-gives-workers-greater-privacy-20090524-bjj2.html
- Kirsty Needham Workplace Reporter
- May 25, 2009