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On-Site Workplace Drug Screening Increases 77.8% For 2011

2 March 2012

On-site screening for national workplace drug testing figures have almost doubled in the last 12 months reports the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA) in its 2011 Testing Statistics released today. Last year NZDDA conducted 52,124 on-site screening tests, an increase of 77.8% from the 29,315 tests undertaken in 2010. Of those tested in 2011, 90% were men, compared with 92% in 2010.

Also screening for alcohol in the workplace, NZDDA’s 2011 figures show it conducted 29,781 breath alcohol tests (92.8% were tests on men), more than doubling its 2010 testing figure of 13,821. Last year 0.42% tests were alcohol-positive, a considerable reduction compared with 1.9% in 2010.

NZDDA’s chief executive Kirk Hardy says, “These on-site drug and alcohol screening test figures show a sizeable increase in the number of tests carried out from 2010 to 2011. It confirms our view that employers are much more aware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and are taking it very seriously. It’s vitally important their workplaces are kept safe not only for their employees but also for their customers and suppliers.”

NZDDA is New Zealand’s only fully compliant ISO-accredited AS/NZS 4308:2008 on-site testing provider in New Zealand and is considered to be a leader in its field. It supplies specialised services for companies that conduct on-site workplace drug and alcohol testing.

For those workers returning a positive drug screening test, 8% of men tested “non-negative” compared with 6% of women tested in 2011. This is a similar figure to 2010 where 9% of men returned a positive test, and the same figure (6%) for women for both 2011 and 2010. Mr Hardy says these figures don’t reflect necessarily that there is significantly less drug use at work from women, rather that the industries undertaking workplace drug testing are overwhelmingly employers of large numbers of men in eight major sectors - forestry, mining, construction, manufacturing, freezing works, oil and gas, transport and waste management. Mr Hardy says that over the last couple of years there’s been a noticeable increase of workplace drug testing in the construction, forestry, oil and gas, manufacturing and transport industries.

Of the drugs being tested positive, cannabis is overwhelmingly the most detected narcotic with 68.5% of positive tests, reduced from 70.3% in 2010. Figures from 2010 to 2011 are similar for both years for opiates (including codeine) 15.9% in 2011 down from 16.2% in 2010, and benzodiazepine was found in 1.2% of tests in 2011, down from 2% in 2010. Cocaine was not detected at all in 2011; 0.2% in 2010.

The major change in narcotic use is the increase in the use of ATS (amphetamine-type substances such as methamphetamine) from 11.3% in 2010 to 14.4% last year. Mr Hardy says that this increase wasn’t unexpected and indicates that along with enforcement, additional resources are required such as education and rehabilitation programmes in order to address the wider issues of drug and alcohol abuse in New Zealand.

“These 2011 figures show that both employers and employees are increasingly taking workplace drug and alcohol testing seriously. In the eight major industry sectors in which we test you don’t necessarily get a second chance if things go wrong. Employees have to concentrate and just can’t afford to be at risk of being impaired, and people’s livelihoods are at stake. We are talking safety-sensitive industries and if someone is not on their game, so to speak, you are going to have a much higher chance of someone being killed or seriously injured in a workplace accident. That’s not something you can take chances on,” says Mr Hardy.

Andrew Schirnack, partner of employment law specialist firm LangtonHudsonButcher says, “The courts hold employers to high standards in relation to workplace drug and alcohol testing. The use of a properly accredited testing provider which complies with the relevant standards will help protect the employer’s testing process from successful challenge, and will generally assist in showing that the employer has acted fairly and reasonably towards its employees.”

Mr Hardy says, “With more employers undertaking on-site workplace drug and alcohol testing, it’s heartening to see these organisations providing a supportive environment to help their employees who have a drug or alcohol problem,” says Mr Hardy.

# # # #

Background: New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA)

• NZDDA supplies specialised services for companies that conduct on-site workplace drug and alcohol testing. It is the only fully compliant ISO accredited AS/NZS 4308:2008 on-site testing provider in New Zealand and is considered to be the leader in its field.
• NZDDA staff are experts in the drug and alcohol testing industry, and include former NZ police officers with significant experience in drug investigation. NZDDA has specialist on-site testing vehicles and are New Zealand’s only accredited on-site drug testing company.
• Established in 2005, NZDDA is a New Zealand-owned and operated company; there are 17 branches throughout the country.



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