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Businesses addressing substance abuse in workplace

Businesses successfully addressing substance abuse in workplace

Auckland, 14 April 2015: A growing number of New Zealand businesses are recognising the danger of drug abuse in the workplace and addressing the issue, according to New Zealand's leading on-site workplace drug testing agency.

The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA) CEO Kirk Hardy says, "Our 2014 statistics show a growing diversity of industry sectors are drug testing on-site with TDDA teams and their vigilance is beginning to pay off, especially in one high risk industry, forestry.

In the forestry sector in 2014, non-negative test results* taken after 'incidents' in the workplace dropped by more than 40% compared to 2013. The incidence of non-negative drug test results from 'randomly tested' workers also dropped marginally.

"Full credit to the industry for recognising they were facing problems and taking all possible steps to address it, and it's beginning to pay off as reflected in the test results," Kirk says.

New Zealand Forestry Owners Association (NZFOA) Technical Manager Glen Mackie, says that drug and alcohol testing has been carried out in the forestry industry for the last 10 years in an effort to help reduce workplace accidents.

"We recognise that we're an industry with a potentially high hazard risk for workers and we strive to manage and minimise that risk, which includes drug and alcohol testing. In the last 12 months the number of fatalities in the forestry industry have dropped significantly due to a number of initiatives, which includes drug and alcohol testing."

Glen says that the Forestry Industry Safety Council - a new body to further improve safety in the industry - in tandem with a revised drug and alcohol policy, is about to be implemented and together should result in the number of forestry accidents dropping even further.

Kirk says it's also heartening to see that the construction and contractor sectors have also taken a drop in non-negative test results, although not as dramatic as the forestry sector.

"It's reassuring that management are recognising that drug use in the workplace is a risk, not only to the employee concerned, but also people around them and the wider community when they walk out of the office door at the end of the day to go home."

Civil Construction company Rhodes for Roads has turned around its staff workplace culture to become zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol onsite. The Warkworth based company first employed TDDA 10 years ago to drug and alcohol test its staff, both before they're employed and on a random ongoing basis.

Rhodes for Roads General Manager, Brendon Henry says, "To this day we've always had a very good safety record but we wanted to be pro-active. We knew that drugs and alcohol were an issue in our industry and we decided to do something about it before a serious incident happened, we certainly don't want drug or alcohol impaired staff operating heavy machinery.

"When we initiated the testing 10 years ago it was a contributing factor to some staff deciding to leave, but we wanted the message to be strong and clear that drugs and alcohol are not acceptable in the workplace. Now people are applying to work for us simply because they know we have zero tolerance and that we are helping provide a safe workplace."

Ten years down the track Rhodes for Roads still conducts pre-employment drug testing and also regular random staff testing with TDDA. "The TDDA team is fantastic to deal with and integral in maintaining a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol in our workplace," Brendon says.

While Kirk commends businesses for addressing the issue he does add that it is important that workplace drug testing is conducted by accredited companies.

"Companies trying to save money by conducting their own staff drug testing is highlighting bad practices and does not address workplace safety. Workplace drug testing is fraught with pitfalls unless it’s conducted by an independent and accredited drug testing company, by skilled technicians," he says.

“The practices we’re seeing and hearing about can result in innocent staff losing jobs or even worse potential drug affected employees not being detected, resulting in workplace accidents causing serious injury or fatalities. This can lead to expensive court cases costing the employers thousands of dollars in damages from poor drug testing practices.”

*A non-negative test result indicates a possible presence of the tested drug, it must be verified by laboratory testing.


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