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On-site Workplace Drug Screening increases 19% in 2013

On-site Workplace Drug Screening increases 19% in 2013

The number of on-site workplace drug tests has increased 19% over the last year, the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA) announced today as it released its annual statistics. In 2013 NZDDA conducted 81,410 on-site drug-screening tests, up from 68,346 tests carried out in 2012.

NZDDA is New Zealand’s only fully compliant AS/NZS4308: 2008 International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) accredited on-site urine drug testing provider. Each of the 20 NZDDA offices has full IANZ accreditation, as does NZDDA’s National Support Office. The company is considered to be a leader in its field.

Highlights of NZDDA’s 2013 statistics include:

· On-site workplace drug testing in 2013 increased 19% from 2012 with 81,410 urine tests being carried out last year.

· Of those 81,140 tests, 5.5% tested non-negative which is an indication that a presence of a drug is detected, down from 6.4% in 2012. Non-negative tests are those tests that have undergone an initial urine screen test and the presence of a drug has been indicated only. The sample is then forwarded to an accredited laboratory for confirmation testing.

· Cannabis continues to be the most frequently detected substance with 71.4% of non-negative results indicating that drug.

· Additionally 12,760 tests were conducted for synthetic cannabis with 3.3% testing non-negative; the highest incidence was in the mining/oil/gas sector.

· Cannabis is detected most frequently in ‘traditional’ cannabis growing areas such as Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and the North Island’s East Cape.

· The construction industry has the highest testing numbers with 11,698 tests with a non-negative rate of 14% in 2013.

· Tourism/adventure activity sector has a high incidence of cannabis detection – 71% were non-negative tests and amphetamine-type substances where 18% were non-negative tests.

· Alcohol screening rose 30% in 2013 compared with 51,252 tests in 2013.

· Hair testing for drug use has doubled to 476 tests in 2013, with 120 tests being positive. Cannabis and methamphetamine were the most detected drugs.

· NZDDA has worked with many businesses in 2013 to develop and conduct drug and alcohol training for more than 1,500 people.

NZDDA’s chief executive Chris Hilson says, “The continued rise in the number of on-site workplace drug and alcohol tests is a clear signal that employers in all sectors are taking workplace safety very seriously indeed. Not only are employers in safety-sensitive industries increasing their workplace drug and alcohol testing, but also more white-collar employers are carrying out testing for drugs and alcohol. Whether you’re in the forestry industry, run a transport business, or in the financial sector, it’s vital for your organisation that your employees are working unimpaired and without risk.”

Cannabis still the most detected drug
In 2013 cannabis (THC) continued to be the most detected drug in NZDDA’s workplace drug screening programmes, with 71.4% returning a non-negative test. This is up from 70.0% in 2012.

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), which include amphetamine and methamphetamine, have showed an increase for amphetamines to 5.1% in 2013 (up from 4.1% in 2012). Methamphetamine detection has risen to 7.0%, up from 6.0% in 2012.

Synthetic cannabis
Synthetic cannabis testing results are included for the first time in NZDDA’s annual report. During 2013 NZDDA carried out 12,760 synthetic cannabis tests. This drug was detected in 3.3% of non-negative tests. The highest detection rate was in the mining/oil/gas sector with 10% of non-negative tests detecting synthetic cannabis.

Most of NZDDA’s non-negative workplace drug tests are retested at the Canterbury Health Laboratory (CHL) for the legally required independent verification. CHL says their experience of workplace confirmation analyses shows that cannabis is still the predominant drug of abuse in a workplace setting. CHL is seeing, however, a noticeable increase in synthetic cannabinoids testing with more samples confirming positive for synthetic cannabinoids than previously. The lab has recently seen a number of samples testing positive for the JWH-398 metabolite which appears to be common to a number of the synthetic cannabinoids. CHL says that the most commonly confirmed amphetamine-type substance is still methamphetamine along with its amphetamine metabolite. The majority of the workplace opiate confirmations are still due to the use of codeine-based pain killers.

CHL says that the recent NBOMe (synthetic LSD) admissions to Christchurch Hospital are a worrying trend as to where the synthetic drugs of abuse industry is heading.

Industry reporting
The industry with the largest NZDDA testing numbers is construction (11,698 in 2013, up from 10,869 in 2012), with the incidence of drug detection dropping. Non-negative tests in that sector have decreased from 16% of all tests in 2012 to 14% in 2013. The drugs found most frequently in non-negative testing in construction is cannabis at 72% (down from 79% in 2012) and opiates (19% in 2013, up from 15% in 2012).

The safety sensitive industry with the highest increase in the total number of tests is mining/oil/gas, a rise of 84% to 9,207 tests in 2013, (up from 4,997 tests in 2012). The incidence of non-negative tests has risen from 3% to 4%, a rise of 33%. The drug most detected in this sector is opiates being found in 43% of non-negative tests, (down from 46% in 2012). Synthetic cannabis resulted in 10% non-negative results for 2013; synthetic cannabis testing was a new testing regime and limited 2012 results are available.

Forestry had an increase of 31% in testing numbers from 3,808 in 2012 to 4,985 in 2013. Overall the forestry sector non-negative rate is 8% for 2013 (down from 10% for 2012 and 12% for 2011). Cannabis reported a 77% non-negative rate versus 80% for 2012. Amphetamine-type stimulant detection has increased significantly from 8% in 2012 to 18% in 2013.

Mr Hilson says, “NZDDA is very pleased with the overall decrease in non-negative tests – down to 5.5% in 2013 from 6.4% in 2012. Of concern, however, is the tourism/adventure activity sector with a high incidence of cannabis detection. Seventy one per cent (71%) of non-negative tests detected this drug in 2013, down slightly from 75% in 2012. Disturbingly, methamphetamine detection was detected in 12% of those non-negative tests in this sector last year, with no detection in 2012. These results should send a message to operators and we hope that tourism/adventure activity businesses work hard to eliminate drugs entirely from their workplaces.”

Drug testing reason
NZDDA’s 2013 statistics analyse the test reasons (pre-employment, post-incident, re-test, random, reasonable cause or voluntary) on a national basis as well as regionally and by North/South Island, by industry and by drug type detected.

In 2013, 29.2% of non-negative results were conducted for reasonable cause; in 2012 this figure was 31%. In 2013 random testing detected 4.9% non-negative test results, down from 6% in 2012, with pre-employment testing at 4% for 2013, down from 5% in 2012 and post-incident reported 6.8% non-negative tests for 2013, down from 7% in 2012.

Mr Hilson says, “It’s pleasing to see the decrease in non-negative test results. We believe this can be attributed to a number of factors including an increase in employee awareness regarding the dangers of drug and alcohol use in the workplace, and also understanding the potential for serious or fatal accidents. Also more random testing is a major deterrent factor within the workplace.”

Drugs detected by region
Cannabis (THC) is detected more frequently in ‘traditional’ cannabis growing areas such as Northland, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and the North Island’s east coast. In Northland, cannabis was detected in 80.8% of the region’s non-negative tests (72% in 2012). In the Bay of Plenty cannabis was found in 80.4% of tests (78% in 2012), in the Waikato cannabis was found in 81.4% of tests (74% last year) and in Gisborne 93.3% (94% in 2012).

The South Island’s Tasman region recorded the biggest decrease in cannabis detection, down to 60.2% in 2013 from 72% in 2012, The opiate detection rate in Tasman, however, soared with a 48% increase from 2012 to 2013; and 38% up on the national average for opiate detection.

Hair testing for drugs
In 2013, 476 tests were conducted nationally, compared with 200 tests in 2012. Of those 2013 tests, more than 25% of those tests were returned positive (123 positive tests 2013; 65 positive tests in 2012).

Again, cannabis is the most detected drug. It was found in 47% of those positive tests in 2013. Methamphetamine, however, followed close behind cannabis and was detected in 38% of positive hair tests in 2013. Opiates were detected in 15% of positive hair tests for 2013.

“Hair testing provides another way of obtaining evidential results, which give a history of drug and/or alcohol use over the previous 90 days. Hair testing mostly takes place for ‘white collar’ pre-employment testing and the testing of witnesses in court, in particular the Family Court,” says Mr Hilson.

Alcohol screening results
In 2013 NZDDA conducted 51,252 breath alcohol tests – up 30% from 39,369 tests in 2012. In 2011 there were 29,791 tests carried out and in 2010 there were 13,821 tests conducted.

Of the 51,252 alcohol tests performed last year, 150 (0.29%) of the tests were positive, down from a 0.4% positive figure in 2012. In 2011 the figure was also 0.4%, and in 2010 NZDDA reported 1.9% of alcohol tests were positive.

“The drop in positive breath alcohol tests in 2013 is very good news. This downward trend means that employees understand better that it’s not good news to turn up to work with alcohol in your system,” says Mr Hilson.

Employer/employee support
As well as providing workplace drug and alcohol testing services to employers, NZDDA also offers advanced drug and alcohol manager and employee training programmes as well as assisting their clients in designing and implementing workplace drug and alcohol policies. Last year, NZDDA worked with many businesses in developing these policies and procedures. In 2013 NZDDA developed and conducted drug and alcohol training for over 1500 people.

Andrew Schirnack, partner of specialist employment law firm Langton Hudson Butcher says, “Having a carefully drafted policy that is consistent with employees’ employment agreements and is properly introduced is the starting point for lawful workplace drug and alcohol testing. Employers should then take care to abide by their own policies when undertaking testing. The Employment Court has made it clear that it won’t tolerate employers departing from the rules they’ve set for themselves in policy.”

Mr Hilson concludes,”It’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for not only their employees, but also any visitors to a site or office, to clients and customers, and to the general public. It’s very pleasing to work with so many employers who are training their manager and supervisors, and also their employees, in workplace drug and alcohol policy planning and implementation.

“Workplace safety is a vital component in conducting business in New Zealand; people’s health, welfare and livelihoods are at stake. Everyone in New Zealand is entitled to a safe workplace where there is no risk of impairment from drugs and alcohol. For NZDDA, we’re proud to be able to accurately test and identify the presence of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and help make New Zealand workplaces safer for all.”


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