Upper Hunter gets coy – depaNews March 2011

Nurse

Upper Hunter gets coy about their ineffective testing regime

“… the question now is whether it would be unjust or unreasonable for the company to implement the urine-based random testing regime with its wide "window of protection", with all that implies for interfering with the private lives of employees, when a much more focused method is available, where a positive test is far more likely to indicate actual impairment, and is far less likely to detect the use of drugs at the time that would have no consequential effect on the employee's performance at work."

This is an extract from the decision of Senior Deputy President Hamburger in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Shell Refining v CFMEU. The Commission, in a decision which is now the Federal authority, found that it would be unjust or unreasonable to move beyond the existing saliva testing regime to the less effective and more intrusive urine-testing.

We couldn't have put it better. The most effective method of testing for impairment at work is saliva because urine gives no indication of how recently a drug was taken. While it might let you know who-did-what two weeks ago, it doesn't let you know who-did-what just before they came to work. As the AIRC appreciates, it fails to be an effective test of impairment at work and is overwhelmed by the negatives of invading the privacy of employees with findings that have no effect on the employee's performance at work.

So why would Upper Hunter want to test the urine of applicants for jobs (including anyone who may apply for the current vacancy for the grossly underpaid position of Director of Environmental Services) and then randomly test thereafter, when the evidence is that this method lacks the focus necessary to detect occupational risks and hazards? They say it’s to manage workplace safety risks but it doesn't do that.

We don't know - but we will find out.

We have asked Upper Hunter a range of questions and they have replied with some of the information we were after. Their Alcohol and Other Drugs Procedure says "Council will continue to seek the advice and guidance of our testing provider and other industry experts, in relation to the most appropriate and viable option for alcohol and other drug testing" but they tell us that their testing providers gave no advice about “the most appropriate and viable option for alcohol and other drug testing”.

They should make up their minds. Upper Hunter can't claim to take advice and guidance about the appropriate option but then claim that they didn't do so. And then, when we ask specific questions about this testing option that they are "unable to respond on behalf of its providers in relation to this question." This is not a time to be cute or coy.

If they lack this much focus and have so much inconsistency in their responses, maybe they should be saliva tested?

And if "neither testing provider tried to influence Council as to which method of testing was to be adopted", who did?

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