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AS/NZS4308:2008 – The Need To Know

13 October, 2023

An employee in a work environment wearing a protective hard hat and holding a mobile device.

AS/NZS4308:2008 is a standard that presents guidelines and specifications for urine drug testing in the workplace in Australia and New Zealand. It provides the definition of cut-off levels for commonly abused drugs. Additionally, the Standard outlines the procedures for collecting urine specimens for drug testing purposes. These guidelines ensure accurate and consistent drug testing, helping maintain a safe and drug-free work environment. However, failure to adhere to the Standard could have legal implications.

In the workplace, employers often use urine testing as a method of drug detection due to its efficiency and convenience. They implement this test as part of their safety measures, ensuring employees are not under the influence of drugs. Moreover, urine tests help companies comply with safety regulations and requirements. This article will present the Australian Standards for urine testing, including its background, cut-off levels, and specimen collection procedures

AS/NZS4308:2008 – Definition and Background

AS/NZS4308:2008 is a standard in Australia and New Zealand. It outlines the procedures for urine drug testing, specifically for the detection of drugs of abuse. The Standard provides guidelines for the collection, storage, and testing of urine samples to determine the presence of various illegal drugs.

This Standard stems from the growing concerns surrounding drug abuse and its impact on safety and productivity. It was first introduced in 1995 as AS4308 and was updated in 2008 to its current form. Moreover, organisations have widely adopted the Standard to ensure the integrity and fairness of drug testing procedures. This includes private industries, government agencies, and healthcare providers.

It is worth noting that this Standard is currently under review by Standards Australia. The ongoing review intends to ensure that the Standard remains current. It also aims to meet the evolving needs and requirements in the field of drug testing. Furthermore, individuals or organisations interested in the Standard should regularly check the News page of Standards Australia. This will help them stay updated on the review progress and any potential amendments or revisions.

Purpose

  • Establish standardised rules for how to collect, handle specimens, and meet laboratory needs.
  • Define the cut-off levels for various drug classes to determine the presence or absence of drugs of abuse in urine samples.
  • Provide a set of rules to make sure urine drug test results are accurate, reliable, and controlled for quality.
  • Allow private companies and employers to do drug tests before hiring, when there is a good reason, after accidents, and at random times.
  • Make it easier to find and measure drugs and their breakdown products using the right tests.
  • Promote the use of reliable drug screening devices and testing kits.

Three professionals conducting a laboratory test.

Understanding the Cut-off Levels of AS/NZS4308:2008

The AS/NZS4308:2008 cut-off levels represent the minimum concentrations of a drug or metabolite that indicate positive test results. These provide reliable outcomes and minimise false positives. The cut-off drug concentrations are an important factor in determining the accuracy of the test. It maintains consistency in the testing process across different settings or situations.

Different drugs have specific cutoff levels in drug tests. For instance, cannabis metabolites, like THC, require levels above 15 ng/mL to be considered positive. Cocaine metabolites have a cutoff of 100 ng/mL, and amphetamine-type substances require levels over 250 ng/mL. If a person’s sample contains higher amounts than these specified levels, it indicates drug use. These thresholds vary, ensuring accurate detection in drug screening processes.

On the other hand, opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers like morphine and oxycodone, have a high cutoff of 2000 ng/mL in drug tests. Reaching this level suggests potential abuse. Health professionals often educate patients or employees about drug categories and their specific cutoffs. This information helps people understand the standards used in drug testing. Hence, it ensures transparency and awareness about the monitored substances.

Legal Implications

Failure to comply with the Standard carries legal repercussions for both individuals and organisations in drug testing. Non-compliance can lead to severe consequences. Individuals might lose jobs or miss out on employment chances because employers use pre-employment and random drug tests to maintain a safe workplace. Adherence is crucial to avoid legal issues and ensure a drug-free environment.

On the other hand, organisations conducting drug testing must adhere to the procedures and guidelines. Failure to do so may render the test results inadmissible in court. This can have significant legal implications if an organisation faces a lawsuit.

A person handing over a urine cup sample to the professional.

AS/NZS4308:2008 – Specimen Collection Procedures

AS/NZS4308:2008 provides comprehensive guidelines for the collection of urine specimens for drugs of abuse testing. Firstly, it emphasises the importance of adhering to strict chain of custody procedures. This includes maintaining a documented record of every step in the collection process. The trained officer labels, seals, and stores specimens carefully to keep them safe from tampering or contamination.

Secondly, the Standard shows the right procedures to collect samples. It emphasises the use of specially designed collection containers and provides specific instructions on how to obtain and handle urine samples. Additionally, the Standard provides details about different drug types and their specific levels for testing. Hence, this ensures that screening tests effectively detect drug usage.

Lastly, the Standard highlights the significance of quality control and regular calibration of equipment. It also requires the laboratories to use proper screening procedures to confirm non-negative results from initial testing. Confirmatory testing should be conducted to ensure accuracy and reliability. This process involves quantitative analysis to determine the actual amount of drugs present in the specimen.

Detection Window

Under the Standard, the detection period varies depending on the specific drug being tested. For example, cocaine metabolites can usually be identified within two to four days after use. On the other hand, cannabis metabolites can be detected for up to ten days or longer in chronic users.

The detection range for other commonly abused drugs can range from a few days to a week or more. It is important to note that the detection window only serves as a general guideline and may vary for individuals based on factors. These include metabolism, hydration level, and overall health.

Conclusion

AS/NZS4308:2008 plays a vital role in ensuring accurate and fair urine drug testing procedures in Australia and New Zealand. Its guidelines, shaped by ongoing concerns about drug abuse, establish specific cutoff levels for various drugs. These levels, such as 15 ng/mL for THC, serve as benchmarks for detecting substance use. The ongoing review by Standards Australia emphasises the importance of staying updated on these standards. By adhering to these guidelines, organisations maintain integrity, ensuring reliable and consistent drug testing outcomes.

Furthermore, the Standard outlines strict guidelines for urine specimen collection in drug testing. It emphasises a meticulous chain of custody procedures, proper collection techniques, and the use of specific containers. The Standard ensures accurate detection of drug usage through detailed instructions tailored to different drug types. Regular equipment calibration and quality control are stressed, along with confirmatory testing for reliable results. The detection window varies based on the drug tested, influenced by individual factors like metabolism and hydration.

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