Workplace drug tests on rise

By Sandra Conchie

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Random workplace drug testing in the Bay of Plenty is increasing, with 8 per cent of all drug screening tests proving positive for traces of drugs.

Workplace drug testing nationwide has more than doubled over the past two years as employers become more aware of the impact drugs and alcohol have on health and safety.

Last year, there were 6784 workplace drug screening tests in the Bay of Plenty region, compared with 4458 in 2011, with 7 per cent of all pre-employment tests and 8 per cent of all random tests positive for drugs.

In total, 78 per cent of all the positive tests last year tested positive for cannabis use, compared with the national average of 71 per cent, according to NZ Drug Detection Agency statistics. That's almost 10 per cent up on the previous year's result of 67 per cent.

Positive tests for opiates also increased slightly by 1 per cent to 11 per cent, but methamphetamine positive tests almost halved.

Nationally last year the NZ Drug Detection Agency conducted 68,551 on-site drug screening tests, up 31 per cent from 52,124 tests in 2011, and 29,513 in 2010.

The agency's chief executive, Chris Hilson, said the rise in the number of on-site tests in 2012 showed more employers were taking workplace safety seriously.

Of the 68, 561 drug tests carried out by the NZ Drug Detection Agency in 2012, 6.4 per cent tested "non-negative" indicating the presence of drugs, compared with 7 per cent in 2011.

Mr Hilson said that most of the agency's testing takes place in the safety sensitive industry sectors such as forestry, transport, construction, freezing works, manufacturing, transport and waste.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said he was in talks with unions about developing a formalised drug and alcohol policy for random drug testing of port workers.

"We haven't had a problem so far but safety at the port is paramount."

The port did pre-employment and new-employee drug testing, and testing could be carried out if there is reasonable cause to suspect drug taking.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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