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Drug and Alcohol 

Drug and Alcohol Policy

Drug and alcohol policy development is a critical element in dealing with drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Often organisations have a strong commitment to deal with the problem and hastily choose testing as a solution. This is often misguided and can create many problems and not necessarily achieve the desired outcome.

Sure People Solutions (SPS) therefore gives practical advice on how to develop a drug and alcohol policy. The policy should be well thought out, detailed enough to handle most situations that may arise, and fair for all concerned.

SPS holds regular workshops to get you started. These give you background information on drugs and alcohol use, practical advice on policy development and sample policies to give you some ideas.

SPS Testing Services

The range of drug testing services SPS provides includes pre-employment, cause and random onsite testing performed by experienced and qualified staff and includes breath alcohol and drugs of abuse testing. SPS operates on a 24/7 basis and will perform onsite tests on individuals as well as sites with hundreds of employees in a time efficient and cost-effective manner.

The most common drug and alcohol services are tests for oral fluid (saliva), urine and breath alcohol. Oral fluid (saliva) is becoming the preferred choice for onsite testing for many industries. It is more difficult to cheat, has a narrow window of detection, and requires no special facilities to collect. Urine though is still the preferred method for pre-employment testing with its ability to detect a broader history of drug use. Both saliva and urine drug testing are done according to the current Australian Standard, AS 4760(2006) and AS4308 (2008) respectively. As such we conduct regular quality control checks both internal and external in accordance with the standard. Our collectors are professionally trained in drug sample collection techniques and privacy.

How is it done?

There are a number of collection methods currently available but the most reliable involves a subject moving an absorbent device around the mouth picking up both saliva and other residues. The sample is then tested immediately. If the sample is non negative further laboratory testing may be required.

Why use Oral Fluids Testing?

There are a number of advantages of oral fluids testing over current urine drug testing methods:

  • The sample is easier to collect with no privacy issues
  • There is less chance the sample can be altered to mask the result
  • The drug can be detected very quickly and does not persist for more than a few days which better reflects current usage

When is Oral Fluids Testing most useful?

As it is easy to collect and the drug can only be detected for a short time it is most useful for onsite safety checks such as roadside and workplace testing.

Is it available in Australia?

There are a number of onsite systems currently available and an Australian Standard AS 4760 was released at the end of 2006. This standard requires an extensive level of quality control and expertise to perform these tests to an evidentiary level that can potentially be defended in court.

Comparison of Oral Fluids Devices

We often get asked about different devices for testing. We use other systems as they are faster and more accurate. Here is a comparison with one of the systems we use – Oratectxp.

Ability to detect more than twice as many THC users

THC is the most commonly used drug of abuse. Previously oral fluid devices had considerable difficulty in detecting this drug. A Pan European project Druid-Esther has looked at 13 different drug tests. Oratectxp detected THC correctly on 92% of all tests.

No more problems with “dry mouth”

Most oral fluid devices require up to 1ml of saliva to perform the test. This can be very difficult to collect from workers who have a “dry mouth” especially smokers and can take up to 30 minutes to achieve.

Quicker processing time

Many devices test take >10 minutes to process and require a special instruments so that only one worker can be processed at a time. This means at a maximum only 5 workers can be processed per collector per hour, and usually only 3 or 4 per hour. The OratectXP only requires 7 minutes and does not require a special instrument to read so more than one worker can be processed at a time. This means that typically 10 workers can be processed by one collector in an hour.

Additional Advantages of SPS

24 hour clearance of Codeine and Pseudoephedrine results

SPS uses a local accredited laboratories to conduct all confirmatory testing. The lab is able to confirm Codeine and Pseudoephedrine results within 24 hours of receiving the specimen, often on the same day for morning collections. This allows the worker who has taken a legal drug to potentially return to work the next day.

Expert Medical, Scientific and Policy advice

SPS has a team of professionals in all aspects of drug and alcohol issues in the workplace. We are able to provide quality confidential advice to both management and employees available 24/7.

Standard Testing Procedure

All persons entering a Clients workplace may be tested in accordance with the following procedures.

  • Testing of individuals in the workplace will be conducted privately on a one-on-one basis, however the person being tested may request a witness.
  • The presence of a witness, in relation to random testing or cause testing, must be immediately available and must not in any way affect or hinder the results of the testing. Therefore, if a preferred witness is not immediately available the testing is to proceed, with the individual being given the opportunity of selecting an alternate witness that is immediately available, such as a work colleague.
  • Random and Causal Testing will be conducted by a designated collector authorised by SPS.
  • In the case of “Random Testing”, individual persons and/or work groups will be selected randomly at selected times by SPS conducting the testing. “Random testing” will not be used to target individuals or groups.
  • The first step for all alcohol and other drugs testing is the completion of a pre-screening form provided by the Authorised Organisation. If prescription or over the counter medication is not declared, the standard processes are to be followed.

Standard Procedure for Alcohol Testing

  • If a person returns a negative test for the presence of alcohol, that is, their result is below the ‘fit for work’ level, no further action is required and the person is to resume their normal duties.
  • Where a person returns an Non Negative result to the presence of alcohol which exceeds the appropriate ‘fit for work’ level they are to be tested a second time after the lapse of 20 minutes, during which time the person is to remain in the controlled testing environment and is not to return to work, unless for example in other extreme conditions such as the necessity for the person to be transported to a hospital.
  • If the person returns a negative test on their second test they can resume their normal duties. However, if the second test returns another Non Negative reading, the person is to be arranged transport home and they are not to return to work until they can return a negative test conducted by the Authorised Organisation.
  • The employee will be encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for support.
  • Where a person returns an Unconfirmed Positive result to the presence of alcohol above the relevant cut off level, the sample will be sent for laboratory confirmation.
  • Immediate advice regarding an Unconfirmed Positive result will be provided to the Manager Occupational Health and Safety who will also contact the Manager Human Resources and the employee’s direct supervisor.
  • Disciplinary action may also be taken following a confirmed Non Negative result
  • If the laboratory confirmation shows that the result is negative, no disciplinary action is required and the person can return to full duties. The employee will also be reimbursed any leave entitlements as appropriate. Warning – This document is current at time of printing or downloading. It may be reviewed and amended prior to the noted review.

Standard Procedure for Other Drugs Testing

  • If a person returns a negative test for the presence of other drugs, no further action is required and the person is to resume their normal duties.
  • Where a person returns a Non Negative result to the presence of other drugs, using Oral fluid procedure, the person will then be asked to provide a Urine sample if the result again is Non Negative the sample will be sent for laboratory confirmation.
  • Immediate advice regarding a Non Negative result will be provided to the Manager Occupational Health and Safety who will also contact the Manager Human Resources and the person’s direct supervisor.
  • The person will be sent home pending the results of the laboratory confirmation, it is the duty of care of the client to make sure all persons sent home are provided safe transport, if any employee refuses transport then the Police may be notified. Following confirmation of the results from laboratory testing, the person may return to work at the commencement of their next shift if they first return a negative test result conducted by the Authorised Organisation.
  • EAP support will also be encouraged for employees.
  • If the laboratory results show that the result is negative, no disciplinary action is required and the person can return to full duties. The employee will also be reimbursed any leave entitlements as appropriate.
  • If the laboratory results are Non Negative to the presence of other drugs, disciplinary action may be taken.

Prescription or Over the Counter Drugs/Medication

The following section outlines the procedures for disclosing use of prescription or over the counter drugs/medication generally and during a screening test.

The use of prescription or over the counter drugs/medication may impact upon a person’s ability to perform safely or efficiently. There are several types of drugs, which may increase risk, including:

  • Hypnotics and sedatives;
  • Anti-depressants;
  • Antihistamines;
  • Stimulants and appetite suppressants; and
  • Analgesics / codeine.
  • People who are using prescription or over the counter drugs/medication should take all reasonable steps to:
  • Discuss with the prescribing medical practitioner/pharmacist the nature of their duties and ascertain any possible side effects of the medication which may increase risk to their safety at work. SPS may also seek guidance from a medical practitioner.
  • Take any medication strictly in accordance with the recommendations of the medical practitioner and/or the manufacturer.
  • Report any side effects of any medication to their medical practitioner.

In addition to the above, persons using prescription or over the counter drugs/ medication which they believe, or have been informed, could affect their safety or performance at work must take all reasonable steps to notify their supervisor of the side effects and possible safety issues associated with the prescription or over the counter drugs/ medication.

The supervisor should consider if the person has a limitation in carrying out normal duties. If the supervisor considers the person may have a limitation, the supervisor may seek further medical information from the person’s medical practitioner and/ or a medical practitioner of Hunter Water Corporation’s choice. This medical advice can only be obtained by the Supervisor if they have the person’s written consent to do so. Otherwise this medical information must be arranged by the Clients Manager OHS.

If it is determined through the above process that there is a limitation for the person performing their full duties, appropriate suitable duties will be provided if available. If the limitation or restriction has been advised by a medical practitioner, the person will not be permitted to return to their full duties until medical advice/ clearance is obtained.

Further, an employee may be entitled to access sick leave for times when unable to work due to the effects of the prescription or over the counter medication.

Disclosure during the Testing Process

Prior to undergoing a screening test, the person is encouraged to advise the testing officer if they are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs/ medication. If this is the case the person is required to fill out a pre-screening form.

If drugs are detected during the screening test, the person will be required to identify any prescription or over the counter drugs/ medication if they have not already done so. The person does not have to state the medical condition, but must state the type of medication, the dosage and confirm that they are consuming those drugs as prescribed or directed (some over-the-counter drugs are in the same drug group type as those that are being tested and therefore may show up as an Unconfirmed Positive Result in the Screening Test). This information will only be shared by the Authorised Organisation if necessary with the Clients Manager OHS.

Testing Process following Disclosure of Medication

Once the person has filled out the pre-screening form, the screening process can commence as follows:

  • If a person returns a negative result following the screening test no further action is required and the employee is to resume their normal duties.
  • If a person returns an Unconfirmed Non Negative Result the procedure outlined will apply
  • When a person returns an Unconfirmed Non Negative Result from a screening test, and has provided a declaration stating that prescription or over the counter medication is being used, laboratory confirmation testing will always be undertaken. The purpose of such testing is to confirm the accuracy of the declaration made by the person.
  • Subject to the paragraph below, if the person’s laboratory confirmation test results show levels of drugs at or above the Cut off Levels as amended and updated, the test will be regarded as a Confirmed Non Negative Result.
  • If the laboratory confirmation test results are consistent with the person’s declaration of prescription or over the counter medication, both in type and quantity, and was appropriately notified and discussed and was being taken in accordance with directions, the results will not be deemed or treated as a Non Negative result.

Tampering with an Alcohol or Drug Sample

Tampering with an alcohol or drug sample will lead to disciplinary action, which may result in termination of employment.

Refusal to Undertake a Test

Refusal by a person to submit or cooperate fully with the administration of Testing will be treated in the same manner as any other refusal to comply with SPS policies and/or procedures and as detailed herein.

Refusal will result in the person being counselled on the spot as to the consequences of the refusal. The person will then be directed to undergo the test. If the person continues to refuse to undertake the test, as a minimum, the refusal will be treated prima facie as a Confirmed Non Negative Result

  1. Disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with SPS and Client OH&S Policy.
  2. The employee will be arranged transport home.
  3. The employee will be suspended without pay for refusal of duty in accordance with the stand down provisions of the SPS and Clients OH&S Policy
  4. A negative test will need to be provided by the SPS Authorised Organisation before the person will be able to return to work.

Continued refusal to undertake testing in accordance with specific causal testing or random testing will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

Contractors who refuse to undertake a test will be asked to leave the site and will not be permitted back on the site until they have undergone a screening test and returned a negative result from the SPS Authorised Organisation. The contract manager will also need to manage any non-conformance in accordance with the SPS Contractor Management Policy.

Avoidance of a Random Test

If a person has presented for work and avoids a random screening test then they will be treated prima facie as a Confirmed Non Negative Result and further as per the conditions set out above

  • The person presents a medical confirmation that they were unable to attend/partake in the random screening; or
  • There is a genuine family emergency that required them to leave the site; or
  • There is a pre-arranged reason (with Manager consent) for the person to leave the site.

Process Following a Confirmed Non Negative Result

The following steps are to be taken for a Confirmed Non Negative Result:

  1. The person tested and the supervisor (or respective employer) will be informed of the result;
  2. The person will be required to undergo testing for a period of 6 months
  3. For employees, a disciplinary discussion will take place which will include consideration as to the level of disciplinary action that should be taken.

Further, if an employee returns a confirmed Non Negative result or has been deemed prima facie as a confirmed Non Negative result and it is identified the person is undergoing medical treatment/support/rehabilitation specific to alcohol and other drugs, the employee will be able to access available sick leave entitlements upon presentation of a confirmatory medical certificate. If employees exhaust all sick leave entitlements, consideration will be given to accessing other paid leave entitlements.

Disciplinary Procedures

This section describes the types of disciplinary action that may be required following a Non Negative Result from test screening. Any discipline taken will be in accordance with SPS and Clients Disciplinary Guidelines.

Where an employee:

  1. Records a Confirmed Non Negative Result from screening tests for alcohol or other drugs; or
  2. Refuses to undertake a screening test; or
  3. Tampers with a screening test sample; or
  4. Avoids a random or causal screening test; or
  5. Breaches this policy in any demonstrated way;

SPS and the Client has discretion to take the appropriate disciplinary action for breach of this policy.

All the circumstances, including the employee’s full work history, will be taken into account when considering what, if any disciplinary action should to be taken. Disciplinary action may include termination of employment taking into account the seriousness of the breach.

The following sets out a guide to the action which may be taken when employees return a Non Negative result to an alcohol or other drugs test. In circumstances where the breach is of a more serious nature, SPS and the Client has the discretion to take action which does not conform with the guide below, e.g. where there has been a serious breach to other safety policies, or the employee’s conduct endangers the safety of others.

1. First Result Non Negative

Following the first Confirmed Non Negative result, a First Written Warning may be issued to the employee stating that the behaviour is regarded as serious misconduct and is a breach of this policy and therefore unacceptable. The employee will be encouraged to seek assistance through the EAP and will be required to undergo random and/or cause testing for a period of six months.

2. Second Result Non Negative

If a second Confirmed Non Negative result is returned, Final Written Warning is issued. The employee will be encouraged to seek assistance through the EAP and will be required to undergo random and/or cause testing for a period of twelve months.

3. Third Result Non Negative

Following a third Confirmed Non Negative result serious disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment may occur.

Records and Documentation

Alcohol and other drug test records (the “test records”) will be kept in the employees personnel file and maintained in accordance with legislative and other State requirements. Test records for contractors will be forwarded to their respective employers.

Records of any disciplinary action taken as a result of breaches to this policy will be maintained on the employee’s personnel file for the life of the person’s employment, as employees are required to be fit for work throughout their employment with the Client, and these records may be taken into account in future disciplinary meetings/ actions.

Results of causal tests following a safety related incident (e.g. high potential near miss, lost time or medical treatment injury) may be made available to WorkCover and other agencies if requested and necessary.

Employees may obtain a copy of a testing receipt to be made available by the provider immediately at the time of testing and may make a written request addressed to the Manager Occupational Health and Safety to obtain a copy of their confirmatory testing records.


Any person that comes into contact with confidential information in respect to this policy must not disclose any of this information to another party except where:

  • A disclosure is necessary in the course of official duties as SPS Code of Conduct; or
  • A disclosure is made with the consent of the Individual to whom the information relates; or
  • A disclosure is otherwise permitted under relevant legislation.

Summary of Responsibilities

Employee Responsibilities:

These responsibilities apply to all persons defined herein and those covered by the scope of this policy, regardless of their role or position, including employees engaged on a casual or contract basis, contractors, employees working outside normal hours, employees required to be on stand-by and members of the Board of Directors.

Persons must take responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of themselves and of others. In particular, employees must act responsibly by:

  • Ensuring that they do not, by the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, endanger their own safety or the safety of any other person, including customers or clients, in the workplace. Persons must present for work able to undertake their normal work activities to an acceptable standard;
  • Attending and resuming work unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs and notifying their manager/supervisor if aware that their work performance or conduct could be adversely affected or if there is a risk to the safety of themselves or others as a result of the effect of a prescribed or non-prescribed drug. All persons should find out from their doctor or pharmacist what effects a drug prescribed for their consumption has on their work performance;
  • Taking action to resolve their own alcohol or other drug-related problems;
  • Consulting with their manager/supervisor, occupational health and safety or union representative if they have genuine reason to believe that a person is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and may pose a risk to the health and/or safety of the person and all others including the public;
  • Conforming with all of the regulations enforceable under the Road Transport Act;
  • Complying with related policies of other companies when working on their site (this may include testing).

Clients Responsibilities:

  • Determining the drug and alcohol policy and procedure for the Company;
  • Authorising the use of workplace drug and alcohol testing;
  • Appointing an Authorised Organisation to conduct drug and/or alcohol testing;
  • Maintaining an Employee Assistance Program Provider and referring Corporation employees requesting assistance for drug and alcohol related issues;
  • Taking measures to achieve a workplace culture that supports health, safety and welfare including the personal effects of the misuse of drugs and alcohol;
  • Reducing the effects on the workplace of the misuse or abuse of alcohol and other drugs and related costs, including absenteeism, accidents and low productivity;
  • Informing employees of the potential work-related problems that may arise from the misuse or abuse of alcohol and other drugs and of their responsibilities in relation to workplace safety, conduct and performance;
  • Providing guidelines to managers/supervisors for dealing with employees whose work performance or conduct is adversely affected by the misuse or abuse of alcohol and other drugs;
  • Ensuring all contractors are aware of and comply with this policy; and
  • Providing information about referral to counselling, treatment and rehabilitation services where appropriate.

For more information including pricing please contact