Fair Work appeal may change drug testing on site

An appeal against a controversial Fair Work Australia ruling may determine the future restrictions on drug and alcohol testing on mine sites, AMMA says.

According to AMMA chief Steve Knott, the industry is supporting Endeavour Energy’s appeal of Fair Work’s previous decision, which ruled that companies could only administer saliva based drug tests, despite urine testing proving more effective.

AMMA said this is contradictory to its earlier decision involving HWE Mining, where a tribunal stated that urine testing was more was more accurate had less false negative results.

Last year the industry came under fire for plans to urine testing at Caterpillar’s Tasmanian manufacturing plant.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) slammed Cat for its decision.

AMWU Tasmanian president Shane Littler said while the union does not oppose the actual drug testing, the method used by Cat is "more focused on controlling the lifestyle of workers outside of work – rather than the workplace."

Littler stated that better technology is available.

"Tasmania Police, other mainland forces as well as many large Tasmanian companies are using saliva tests, not urine tests," Littler stated.

"Our concern with Cat management’s proposed method of testing is outdated, messy and can give false readings."

He went on to say that saliva tests are less invasive, and that the AMWU will push Cat to use these tests instead of urine analysis.

"If a saliva method of testing is OK for the Tasmanian police and other Tasmanian companies why is it not ok for a large American company?"

There is currently debate within the mining industry over urine and oral workplace drug testing.

Knott said "the resource industry is concerned with both the inconsistent and conflicting decisions coming off the tribunal along with separate legislative proposal to restrict mining industry employers’ ability to introduce urine testing for drug detection.

"The contradictory decisions are not helping employers gain confidence in their ability to properly manage drug and alcohol issues, particularly when the experts have shown saliva testing is more likely to produce false negatives, meaning some workers significantly impaired under the influence of drugs will not be detected.

"Yet based on the findings in the HWE Mining case, there is still a strong argument that to be made that mining industry is obligated to adopt urine testing," Knott stated.

He went on to say that employers’ hands must not be tied when it comes to drug and alcohol safety procedures on work sites.

"If the findings in the Endeavour Energy case are upheld on appeal, it will severely undermine employers’ ability to implement the drug and alcohol system of their choice and strengthen the union push against onsite urine testing."

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