Some of Northland’s largest organisations are tightening up their drug testing policies for staff amid stricter workplace regulations amid news the region’s rate of failed employee drug tests after workplace incidents is more than double the national average.
Glenn Dobson, group general manager of The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA), which operates a branch in Whangarei, said its most recent figures showed 13.4 per cent of post-incident tests in Northland returned an indication of drugs against the national average of 6.4 per cent.
The region’s lead drug detection agency also revealed that during random testing in Northland in 2014, 8.6 per cent of employees returned an indication of drugs present, against a national average of 5.3 per cent.
Not surprisingly, given Northland’s status as the cannabis capital of New Zealand, marijuana was the most frequent drug detected in the workplace in the region, followed by methamphetamine.
However, Mr Dobson said that compared with the previous years, the figures were dropping, thanks to the work being done by the Northland TDDA operators, Deb and Craig Gurr.
“The forestry industry has had a major economic and social turn-around in Northland from a previous rate of 23 per cent positives down to 6 per cent,” he said.
Changes to workplace policies were being prompted by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which reinforced an existing legal obligation on employers to take all practicable steps to ensure workplace safety. It comes into force in April next year and means managers, owners, trusts, directors and governing bodies will face fines or imprisonment if they fail to proactively manage workplace health and safety risks.
Drug testing was carried out for pre-employment checks, random testing, pre-work site entry, post incident, rehabilitation processes, and reasonable cause, when it is suspected a person is affected by a drug. Far North lines company Top Energy was working on introducing random testing, having fired two people in the past seven years – one for alcohol the other for cannabis.
Northpower already carried out random testing throughout the business.
Public affairs manager Steve MacMillan said the company, which employed 1200 people, had fired/suspended three people in the past 12 months after they tested positive for drug taking – two for cannabis the other for methamphetamine.
Northland DHB was drafting a policy for drug testing staff, with rehabilitation from drug use a consideration of the new policy.
New Zealand police officers will be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol from later this year.
A Worksafe spokesperson said there were no regulations covering workplace drug testing.
“Drug testing is a matter between the employer and employee and there is no requirement for companies to advise WorkSafe New Zealand of the results of any drug testing. WorkSafe does not have the power to require a person to provide a sample for drug testing as part of an investigation.”
ACC did not require people to disclose if they had used alcohol or drugs at the time of the injury to provide cover. ACC had four optional workplace incentive products and two compulsory incentive programmes which recognised businesses with good health and safety practices, through reduced levies.