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Industrial drug testing: Making a choice on site

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The resources sector is one of the most heavily monitored and thorough industries when it comes to drug and alcohol screening at work. 

Because you can not have people essentially mentally incapacitated while they operate multi-million dollar heavy equipment.

But the industry is finding it difficult to operate when it comes face to face with substances that can not be detected with most drug testing paraphernalia. 

While the majority of miners are unlikely to take drugs before work, substances such as Kronic have made testing on sites difficult for the minority who do. 

On top of this is the debate between urine and oral workplace drug testing. 

According to Medvet Laboratories, which supplies drug screening programs, "this decision is a difficult one of the Australian mining industry".

While testing is mandatory at all sites, companies need to be aware of their many options as "there is no one size fits all solution to workplace drug testing programs," Medvet national operations and technical operations manager Steve Korkoneas explained.

"The success of a drug testing program often depends on selecting the most appropriates method of test for the organisation.

"While both urine and oral fluid tests will detect cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines, there are advantages and limitations to each method," he said. 

Korkoneas said businesses should consider the pros and cons of both.

Currently urine testing is the most accurate and popular method for drug testing and is used by around three quarters of all Australian workplaces.

Urine testing is more cost effective than oral fluid tests and can trace drugs that have been ingested more than 24 hours prior to testing.

"Results can be determined onsite in five to ten minutes with 98% accuracy," Korkoneas said. However, some organisations may find urine testing much too invasive.

In these cases, there is also oral or breath testing, which involves taking a mouth swab or breathing into an analyser and is considered less instrusive.

"Just like urine tests, onsite results can be obtained in five to ten minutes."

However, these tests have a much shorter window of drug detection than urine testing.

"It can only test for cannabis used in the last four hours," Korkoneas added.

A company's drug and alcohol policy, and the testing equipment used, should be specific to the workplace and its different job requirements.

"For example, does it cover pre-employment, random, post-incidence or 'for cause' test?" 

Tests should be tailored to the company, he added.

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