Pre Employment Drug Testing in Australia: The Need To Know
14 November, 2023
Requiring pre-employment drug testing in Australia has become increasingly common for employers. This practice has helped organisations determine the suitable candidate for safety-sensitive positions. It has also helped companies maintain a safe and productive work environment. Moreover, there are several aspects to consider, such as the types of testing, substances being tested for, and implications of positive test results. Knowing these factors can help job applicants prepare for the test.
Illicit substance use is one of the leading reasons for accidents in the workplace. Employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol often experience significant impairment in judgment, concentration, and motor function. This increases the safety risks, especially when operating a vehicle or heavy machinery. It can also decrease productivity and employee morale. This article will explore the essential considerations of pre-employment testing, including the testing methods and what happens to positive tests.
What is Pre-Employment Drug Testing in Australia
Pre-employment drug testing in Australia is a process that employers use to test job applicants for the presence of drugs in the system. It is often part of a drug and alcohol testing policy to ensure workplace safety. This involves testing prospective employees using various methods to determine if they have substance abuse or other related issues.
Testing job applicants for illicit drugs is a common practice in Australia, especially for high-risk industries. It helps ensure that individuals do not have abusive behaviours that may compromise themselves and others at work. This test is a standard requirement for mining, rail transport, aviation, and construction occupations.
The process involves collecting a sample from the applicants and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. The test results will be used by employers to assess the risk level of individuals. Moreover, employers often include drug and alcohol testing as part of the hiring process. Thus, applicants can take the necessary measures, such as abstaining from alcohol consumption for a few days.
Purposes of the Policy
- A workplace drug and policy guides current and new employees on the standard safety procedures and expectations of behaviours during work hours.
- Determine whether job candidates have drug or alcohol abuse issues, which can affect their ability to perform their duties safely and effectively.
- Ensure a safe and healthy work environment by identifying and preventing substance abuse-related incidents.
- Business owners can comply with safety legislation.
- Prevent absenteeism, tardiness, and frequent health issues associated with substance abuse.
- Encourage employee accountability and responsibility for their actions while at work.
- Maintain a positive company image and reputation by demonstrating a commitment to employee well-being and safety.
Types of Methods in Pre-Employment Drug Testing in Australia
Pre-employment drug testing in Australia uses various testing methods to detect impairment or substance abuse history. Employers usually choose one or more of these based on the safety standards they want to maintain. The most common type is urine testing. This method examines urine samples for different types of drugs and alcohol. It is less invasive and can easily be administered in a workplace setting.
The second type is hair follicle testing. This procedure analyses a few hair samples to determine the applicant’s history of drug use. The hair test can detect alcohol and drug metabolites for up to 90 days. Thus, it can reveal long-term consumption patterns, such as chronic drug use or periods of abstinence.
Other processes may include saliva drug screening, which can detect recent drug use, and breathalysers, which measure the level of alcohol in the body. Saliva testing is a cost-efficient alternative to pre-employment drug tests. However, saliva samples have a shorter detection window than urine. On the other hand, a breathalyser can measure Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) through the breath sample.
Commonly Detected Substances
The pre-employment drug test typically looks for illegal drugs in the system, such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and barbiturates. Cannabis, in particular, has a high abuse rate due to its euphoric or relaxation effects. However, excessive amounts may lead to physical and mental health disorders.
Furthermore, employers may include the detection of certain prescription drugs. These legal medications can help treat medical conditions but can be abused and lead to addiction. Lastly, alcohol testing looks for ethanol in the system. The presence of alcohol molecules or metabolites may indicate current intoxication or potential alcohol misuse.
Implications of a Positive Result in Pre-Employment Drug Testing in Australia
Employers include passing the pre-employment drug testing in Australia as one of the conditions for getting a job. Generally, companies will not hire the applicant if they return with a positive test result. This outcome may indicate the individual’s likelihood to engage in substance abuse in the workplace. Therefore, a positive test result is a common ground for employers to rescind the job offer.
Moreover, a positive drug test can have a range of consequences. Companies may be held liable if they knowingly employ an individual who poses a risk of harm to themselves or other people in the workplace. Businesses may also face significant fines and penalties if found to be in violation of safety protocols.
Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe and healthy environment for their employees. Thus, they ensure to take proactive steps to get the most suitable additions to their workforce. It can help them decide to employ an equally qualified candidate without the risk of drug abuse or impairment. However, depending on the company policy, some may allow reapplications after completing a drug abuse program.
Can an Applicant Ask for a Confirmatory Testing
An applicant may ask for a confirmation test if they are not satisfied with the results of the pre-employment drug test. Confirmatory testing is a more comprehensive and accurate method that is used to validate the results of initial screening tests. It involves more sophisticated laboratory techniques, such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS).
Individuals may challenge the initial screening if they believe the initial results to be false. This is important because false positives can occur due to medication use and mishandling of samples. However, it may be subject to certain conditions, such as who will shoulder the additional testing cost.
Pre-employment drug testing in Australia is an important part of recruitment in many organisations. It helps employers ensure that potential employees do not engage in substance abuse. There are several types of test methods that can detect illicit substances, including urine, hair, saliva, and breath alcohol testing. These procedures can detect various substances with different windows of detection. Thus, it can help employers to identify any underlying drug use.
A positive test result often results in employers revoking the job offer. However, individuals may request confirmatory testing to challenge the results. In this way, it can validate the initial results and minimise the possibility of false positives. This procedure is a standard requirement in high-risk industries and businesses with drug and alcohol policies. Other testing programs included in the policy are reasonable suspicion and random drug testing, which helps ensure workplace safety.