Testing the urine of workers in order to detect drug and alcohol use has been banned by the Fair Work Commission which found employees at Endeavour Energy are to be tested using saliva swabs instead.
Last week the Fair Work Commission refused Endeavour Energy's bid to urine test its 2635 employees.
The commission labelled the use of urine tests “unjust and unreasonable” in a case which could have wider implications for a range of industries, including mining.
Endeavour Energy launched the latest legal action in October last year, with the matter heard in the Fair Work Commission in December. The company was attempting to vary the original decision, which required the use of oral testing, with urine based testing.
The Electrical Trades Union said the decision confirmed two previous court rulings that found the use of urine test was unfair because it could detect drug use from days earlier, rather than more recent use that could lead to impairment at work.
ETU NSW deputy secretary Neville Betts said the decision highlighted that the role of drug and alcohol testing in the workplace should be about identifying potential impairment, rather than disciplining staff for private actions taken in their own time.
“While oral testing accurately identifies recent drug use, where an individual may be impaired in their abilities, urine tests unfairly monitor workers’ private lives by potentially showing a positive result even where a substance may have been used many days prior, in a private capacity,” Betts said.
“This is the third time the courts have ruled in favour of the ETU on this issue, despite Endeavour Energy spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to force urine testing on their staff.
“This most recent decision absolutely cements this legal precent that has wide-ranging ramifications not only for the electricity sector, but for every industry that carries out drug and alcohol testing, in particular mining, aviation, transport and emergency services.
“In recent years drug testing of employees has become increasingly common, both in the public sector and private enterprise, which is why making sure the practice is done as fairly as possible is so important.
Endeavour Energy's chief executive Vince Graham said the ruling contradicted a 2011 decision by which found in favour of a coalmining employer's right to conduct urine testing, Newcastle Herald reported.
In that case, the commission found urine testing was more accurate.
"Mine workers and electricity workers both work in potentially dangerous conditions and yet different drug testing methods have been ordered by the [Fair Work Commission]," Graham said.