An increase in the number of employees testing positive for drugs in Northland could be due to businesses readying themselves for new health and safety regulations to come into effect next month.
The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA) tested 5000 Northland people last year, with seven per cent (350) testing positive. Methamphetamine made up 19.6 per cent of positive tests (69), an increase of 7.8 per cent from the previous year (64); but cannabis was by far the most common, at 79 per cent (276) of positive tests in Northland. The other positive tests were for a range of drugs, including opiates.
The new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 reinforces an existing legal obligation on employers to take all practicable steps to ensure workplace safety. It comes into force in April 4 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.
TDDA chief executive officer Kirk Hardy said it was timely that businesses ensured they had a robust and approved drug and alcohol policy in place, a crucial part of the change.
He said the increase in testing could be due to businesses making sure they complied with the new act.
Mr Kirk said drug use in the workplace was a growing concern and the use of methamphetamine – known as P – was increasing nationally.
“It’s effects are being felt across all levels of society and workplaces. It’s an extremely addictive drug that people from all walks of society take,” he said.
“Management need to be trained to recognise drug use and how to deal with it. It not only protects employees from harm and danger at work but also the company from potential legal action.”
Drug testing was carried out for pre-employment checks, random testing, pre-work site entry, post incident, rehabilitation processes, and when it is suspected a person is affected by a drug.
Northland criminal investigations manager Detective Inspector Kevin Burke said police continued to target those who manufactured and distributed drugs, in particular methamphetamine.
“It’s a business for some so there is no thought of the significant social harm that is occurring, it’s about cash and what they can generate. The rise in positive drug testing just shows how this drug filters through the community across all levels.”
Far North lines company Top Energy earlier this year introduced random testing. Northpower already carried out random testing. Northland District Health Board was also drafting a testing policy and police will be randomly tested.