Substance abuse testing and the workplace

Employment Information technology Social issues Drugs and alcohol Australia

This policy statement seeks to invalidate the increasing tendency by employers to try to exercise power over their employees in the form of compulsorily-imposed tests for consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

There are some circumstances in which a genuine need exists to do so. But those circumstances are highly unusual, and many employer initiatives are ill-judged and excessive. Meanwhile, proponents of testing, including technology providers, have made dubious and insufficiently tested claims about its effectiveness, and have made incredible statements to the effect that the enforced extraction of swabs is non-intrusive.

As long ago as 1992, the then NSW Privacy Committee concluded that "unless specifically authorised by legislation, workplace [substance abuse] testing should only take place when (NSWPC 1992):

  1. a person’s impairment by [a substance] would pose a substantial and demonstrable safety risk to that person or to other people; and
  2. there is reasonable cause to believe that the person to be tested may be impaired by [a substance]; and
  3. the form of [substance abuse] testing to be used is capable of identifying the presence of a [substance] at concentrations which may be capable of causing impairment".

The 20-year delay in the imposition of appropriate regulatory measures cannot be allowed to continue.

Image: spratmackrel / flickr

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