CONGRATULATIONS to Mr Glenn Reeves (Regs Coordinator North, Essential Energy) – Winner of our IPad Competition held at the 2012 Electricity Supply Energy Field Days in Coffs Harbour.
See our blog for industry updates and discussions
The increasing prevalence of a new range of drugs of abuse is providing a considerable challenge to current work place drug testing programmes. The first of these are the synthetic cannabinoids which are chemical compounds that mimic the effects of THC (marijuana) but are structurally different enough to not be detected on standard onsite screening devices. These substances may be found in products with brand names such as Kronic, Northern Lights, Spice, Kaos, Voodoo and Mango and originally did not fall under the various state and federal legislations prohibiting drugs of abuse.
Drugs of abuse are not the only concern for an employer when they are looking at minimising risk of accidents at work. Many prescription and over the counter medications can have an impairing effect, they often carry a warning not to drive or operate heavy machinery. This is often not well understood or communicated placing the worker at risk. Recently however the Transport Safety Victoria has notified rail workers “that their obligations under the Rail Safety Act 2006 – which makes it an offence to work while impaired by drugs – extend beyond illegal substances.
On August 12 the full bench of Fair Work Australia upheld the decision by Senior Deputy President Hamberger of 26th March in the case Endeavour Energy vs Unions. The key to this case was not whether Endeavour Energy had the right to drug test its employees (this was already agreed to by the unions), rather whether urine or oral fluids was the most appropriate method of determining whether an employee was fit for duty at work.
A Perth study has found that young adults may present with acute cardiac symptoms up to three days after taking ecstasy. (Medical Observer: Tue 19 Jun 2012)
A recent study of almost 10 000 Australian has found that alcohol is still a significant safety issue in the workplace. This first study to look at drug and alcohol use in Australian workplaces was conducted by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Adelaide's Flinders University.
Drug tests can be forced on workers
Building workers will now be able to be forced to take drug and alcohol tests according to a Fair Work Australia decision made in response to employer concerns about the safety risk of having drug and alcohol affected workers on job sites.
A recent article in the Age www.theage.com.au/victoria/abuse-of-prescription-drugs-on-rise-20110703-1gxe2.html, highlighted a warning by the Victoria police drug taskforce chief about the rise in prescription drug abuse. In particular stimulants such as Ritalin which is an amphetamine and opiates such as Xanax and Oxycontin. These drugs can be either purchased on the black market or through the collection of multiple prescriptions for the same condition via doctor shopping.
A recent ABC News piece (July 22, 2011 “Fake urine proves a wee problem”) reported on the emerging dilemma for workplace drug testing programs - an increased number of employees ordering fake urine online in attempt to beat the ‘system’.
Many urine drug kits are now available with built in adulterant tests and temperature strips to confirm that the urine specimen was passed at the time of collection. However at this stage, differentiating between a genuine or a synthetically produced urine sample remains difficult.
Last month we reported on the concerning rise in the use of synthetic marijuana in the belief that it was "legal" and could not be detected in workplace drug tests. As predicted, the Federal Government has responded with a nationwide ban of such substances. As of June 17 those who sell or supply synthetic cannabis in Western Australia face 25 years in jail or fines of up to $100,000. (SMH June 15 "Kronic a bad trip for the law"). By July 8 most widely-used synthetic cannabis products became prohibited across the nation (ABC News July 7 "Nationwide kronic ban 'completely ludicrous'").
Spice, Kronic and Synthetic Cannabinoids are the new headline grabbing drugs of abuse. Current misinformation about these “legal” drugs however includes suggestion that they are ‘safe’ to use and can be consumed without risk of detection in drug testing.