A plan by Caterpillar to use urine based drug and alcohol tests for its Burnie manufacturing plant in Tasmania is "outdated and inaccurate," according to the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU).
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"Our concern with Cat management’s proposed method of testing is outdated, messy and can give false readings."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.
According to Medvet Laboratories, which supplies drug screening programs, "this decision is a difficult one of the Australian mining industry.
While testing is mandatory at all sites, companies need to be aware of their many options as "there is no one size fits all solution to workplace drug testing programs," Medvet national operations and technical operations manager Steve Korkoneas explained.
"The success of a drug testing program often depends on selecting the most appropriates method of test for the organisation.
"While both urine and oral fluid tests will detect cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines, there are advantages and limitations to each method," he said.
Korkoneas said businesses should consider the pros and cons of both.
Currently urine testing is the most accurate and popular method for drug testing and is used by around three quarters of all Australian workplaces.
Caterpillar recently expanded the manufacturing site at Burnie, creating an additional 50 jobs and has plans to add another 70 before the end of the year.
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