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Features

Impaired thinking Britain’s employers have a big drug and alcohol problem. They are wasting millions on testing and firing workers. Hazards says providing support and a healthier working environment would provide a cheaper and more effective resolution to the bad working conditions causing worker impairment.
Hazards 100, November 2007

The drug testing habit The drug tests don't work, but that's not stopping employers. Hazards argues for sensible drug and alcohol policies.
Hazards 84, October 2003 and Hazards 84 feature [pdf]

Surveillance in the workplace If employers have their way they will soon be testing more than your patience. Companies are becoming more and more keen on alcohol, drug and genetic testing at work. They monitor your email, your phone calls, your work rate and your whereabouts. Hazards warns this scrutiny is a dangerous distraction that will be bad for your safety and privacy, and argues it may be their company, but your body is your business. Hazards Testing Times webpages

Drugs and alcohol When it comes to dealing responsibly with drinking problems at work, research shows we should target the boardroom, not the bar room. And dealing with drugs at work can mean giving management methods a fix. Frequently the problem is more work style than lifestyle. A Hazards guide to sensible workplace drugs and alcohol policies.
Hazards 77, Jan-March 2002 [pdf]

Just say no to...drugs testing Surveillance for drugs in the workplace is a solution looking for a problem, says Hazards. Evidence suggests that it is bad jobs that lead to bad habits, that drug testing is an intrusive and suspect science and that drug-related problems should be a matter for the sickness, not the disciplinary, procedure.
Hazards 55, July-Sept 1996

Resources

UNIONSAFE, Australia

UNIONSAFE Guide to union policies, Australia

CAW substance abuse webpages, Canada

US Union United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), USA

The National Workrights Institute, USA

Health and Safety Executive, UK

The Building Trades Group Drug and Alcohol Program, Australia

GPMU guidance and: model drug and alcohol policy, UK

Sample policy for managing drugs and alcohol in the workplace, Labor Council of New South Wales, Australia

ILO workplace drug and alcohol abuse prevention programmes, Global

American Civil Liberties UnionTesting in the workplace, USA

Work-related alcohol and drug use - A fit for work issue, ASCC, June 2007. Full report [pdf] and executive summary [pdf]

Workplace drug and alcohol policy statement, AFL, October 2006 [pdf]

 

News

Britain: Teachers driven to drink and drugs by stress
Work worries are driving teachers to drink, drugs and the brink of suicide, a survey by the NASUWT has found. Over two thirds (68 per cent) told the union their job prevents them from giving adequate time to their partner, family and friends and over half (58 per cent) say their family and friends get fed up with the pressures that teaching puts on their relationship.
NASUWT news release. Morning Star. The Independent. Risks 796. 22 April 2017

Britain: Drug testers ‘play judge and jury’ at work
Companies are misusing drug tests to “play judge and jury” over workers and to intimidate their staff, GMB reps have said. Delegates at the union’s annual congress called for companies to offer “proper training and support” on substance abuse and “not just sanction after sanction.”
Morning Star. Risks 754. 11 June 2016.

Britain: Teachers ‘on brink of drugs and self-harm’
Many teachers are on the brink of turning to medication, alcohol and self-harm to deal with increased stress at work, teachers’ union NASUWT has revealed. More than 20 per cent of members reported increased use of alcohol and caffeine to deal with work-related pressures, the union’s survey found.
NASUWT news release. Morning Star. Risks 745. 9 April 2016

USA: Chemicals killed him; but they only tested for drugs
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector who investigated the suspected chemical asphyxiation death of truck driver David Simpson at an XTO Energy Inc. site deemed the safety practices at the facility ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ in his report. But OSHA dropped the case after the Oklahoma medical examiner listed Simpson's cause of death as “unknown,” with Byron Curtis, toxicologist with the medical examiner's office, admitting: “We just did what we usually do for on-the-job, which is an alcohol and drugs of abuse screen.”
E&E News. Risks 721. 26 September 2015

Britain: More questions over drug test accuracy
Construction workers are questioning the accuracy of site drug tests, following a landmark case that saw a Bristol bus driver win his tribunal case. Alan Bailes was awarded unfair dismissal compensation from First Bus after proving he didn't take drugs. Construction EnquirerRisks 69711 April 2015

Britain: Bus driver proved innocent after failed drug test
A Bristol-based bus driver has received compensation from First Bus after proving he didn't take drugs, despite failing a workplace drugs test. Unite member Alan Bailes, who had been employed as a bus driver for more than 22 years, was wrongly dismissed from First Bristol Limited for “gross misconduct” after testing positive for cocaine in a drug test at work.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Bath Chronicle. Risks 696. 28 March 2015

Britain: Flawed drug-driving rules about to take effect
People who have been prescribed powerful anxiety or pain relief drugs are being told to be aware of a new drug-driving law. As well as outlawing driving while under the influence of illegal drugs, the new legislation will include some prescription medicines. DfT news release. Risks 690. 14 February 2015

Australia: Work drug tests ‘a waste of time and money’
Australia’s Immigration Department is wasting its time and taxpayers' money on forced drug tests for thousands of public servants, according to a leading workplace drug and alcohol expert. The tests will be no deterrent, enormously expensive and might even make matters worse by forcing drug users in the department on to harder substances, according to Dr Donna Bull.
Canberra Times. Risks 687. 24 January 2015

Britain: Long working hours can drive you to drink
Individuals who exceed 48 hours per week at work are more likely to consume “risky” quantities of alcohol, researchers have concluded. Their overview of studies covering more than 400,000 people showed that long working hours boosted the likelihood of higher alcohol intake by 11 per cent overall.
Marianna Virtanen and others. Long working hours and alcohol use: systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual participant data, British Medical Journal, volume 350, g7772, published online 13 January 2015. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7772
BMJ 2015; 350 (Published 13 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:
Cassandra Okechukwu. Editorial: Long working hours are linked to risky alcohol consumption, British Medical Journal, volume 350, g7800, published online 13 January 2015. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7800
The Guardian. Risks 687. 24 January 2015

Britain: Drug driving limits nothing to do with safety
A government proposed ‘drug driving’ limit has nothing to do with safety at work, the TUC has said. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said the new limits will lead to a “big increase” in drug testing at work and in workers being disciplined or fired for “being over the limit,” despite no evidence of impairment.
TUC Stronger Unions blog, drugs testing guidance and guidance on alcohol and drugsRisks 6523 May 2014

Canada: Panel dismisses substance abuse claims
A company-fuelled perception that the workers extracting Alberta’s oil sands are alcohol and drug abusing rednecks operating deadly equipment with little regard for safety has turned out to be untrue after all. In 2012, Canada’s largest oil producer, Suncor Energy, tried to introduce random drug and alcohol testing of the thousands of oil sands workers, but an independent arbitration panel has sided with the union, ruling random testing is “an unreasonable exercise of management rights.”
Unifor news releaseGlobe and MailRisks 65012 April 2014

Britain: New drug-driving limits could protect workers
New recommended drug-driving limits for 16 different drugs could help workers subjected to drugs tests at work who are found to be positive but below the new impairment thresholds, the TUC has said. The new limits, which cover eight illicit and eight prescription drugs, will come in to force in autumn 2014.
Department for Transport news releaseDrug driving written ministerial statement, 27 March 2014. TUC drugs at work webpages and guide to drug testing at workRisks 6495 April 2014

Canada: Random drug and alcohol tests thrown out
The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned a company's right to impose random alcohol testing on unionised workers in a dangerous workplace. The case ended up in court after a union grievance challenged paper and pulp firm Irving’s unilateral, mandatory and random alcohol testing policy.
CEP news releaseCLC news releaseCBC NewsRisks 61022 June 2013

Britain: Alarm about new quickie alcotests
Millions of workers could face routine and possibly daily alcohol tests using a new fingerprint device which gives instant results. Media reports say staff in local government, the NHS and security, transport and leisure industries will be first to be targeted for testing by the world’s first finger-touch system to detect alcohol.
UNISON news releaseMetroDaily MailThe GuardianRisks 60227 April 2013

Britain: Met chief’s ‘bonkers’ workplace drug testing wish
A suggestion by Britain’s top police officer that workers should face mandatory drug testing by their employers has been condemned by the TUC and a former government drugs policy adviser. Professor David Nutt said the idea, suggested by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, was “bonkers” and would lead to “an enormous amount of errors” and “no net benefit.”
BBC News OnlineDaily MailTUC drugs at work webpages and guide to drug testing at workRisks 5912 February 2013

New Zealand: Deadly forestry industry slammed
The New Zealand forestry industry has a death rate 34 time higher than the UK’s but is a ‘one trick pony’ when it comes to prevention, concentrating on testing its workers for drugs. National union centre CTU said despite ‘massive’ drug testing programmes, the forestry industry had failed to arrest sky-high fatality and injury rates.
NZCTU news releaseForestry Industry Contractors Association news releaseNew Zealand HeraldRisks 5711 September 2012

Britain: UK workers are overwhelming drug free – study
A study by a global drug testing firm has confirmed the overwhelming majority of UK workers are drug-free. However, the report from Concateno, which looked at drug tests conducted by 856 UK employers in industries including logistics, haulage, policing, utilities, retail, occupational health, manufacturing, construction, commerce, and healthcare, also suggests there has been an increase in companies demanding testing. TUC drugs at work webpages and guide to drug testing at workThe Guardian. Concateno global drug testing serviceRisks 5637 July 2012

Australia: Tribunal backs compulsory drug testing
Unions and drug support organisations in the Australian state of Victoria have reacted angrily to a ruling by Fair Work Australia, the national workplace relations tribunal, that found that requiring drug and alcohol tests was a 'reasonable request from an employer'.
CFMEU guidance
Risks 52715 October 2011

Australia: Firefighters inflamed by drug tests plan
Firefighters in Australia are threatening industrial action over plans to introduce random drug testing in brigades across New South Wales. A new draft drug and alcohol policy developed by Fire and Rescue NSW would require the state's 7,000 full-time and part-time firefighters to give urine samples for alcohol and drug detection.
Sydney Morning HeraldABC NewsRisks 5213 September 2011

USA: Steel giant sued over alcohol tests
The USA’s largest steel firm violated federal law when it applied a nationwide policy requiring probationary employees to undergo random alcohol tests and fired an employee as a result of such a test. Commenting on the lawsuit supported by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC attorney Debra Lawrence said: “The EEOC is committed to eradicating systemic discrimination in the workplace, including blanket policies mandating medical examinations that violate federal law.”
EEOC news releaseIMF news reportRisks 478 • 16 October 2010

Britain: TUC prescription on drugs and alcohol
A decent policy is the key to addressing drug and alcohol problems at work, the TUC has said. The union body adds: “Under no circumstances should a drugs or alcohol policy be part of a disciplinary policy.”
TUC guide on drugs and alcohol policies [pdf] and drug testing in the workplace [pdf] • Risks 459 • 5 June 2010

Britain: Random drug tests of ‘dubious legality’
The TUC has warned that random drug tests at work are of ‘dubious legality’ and has called on the government to produce clear guidelines. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said employers cannot ignore drug use at work, but added “the way to tackle this danger is by having proper policies in place for dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace, rather than introducing random testing which is not only a breach of a person’s right to privacy and dignity, but also of dubious legality.”
TUC news releaseDrug testing in the workplace [pdf] • Risks 458 • 29 May 2010

Britain: Is drug testing an issue in your workplace?
Reports from unions and the shopfloor suggest there has been an upturn in the number of firms introducing – or at least proposing to introduce – drug testing programmes at work. The TUC is investigating the phenomenon, and says it has aware of “growing concern on random drug testing in non-critical employment areas”.
Email details of drug testing case histories, workplace practices and policies to the TUC health and safety department or post to Hugh Robertson, TUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS • Hazards magazine drug and alcohol webpagesRisks 446 • 6 March 2010

Britain: Job applicants face pavement drug tests
Jobseekers were subjected to “degrading” drug tests in a Scottish street by a top recruitment firm. People who were interviewed for 120 posts with Greenock-based cabling firm Sanmina were left astonished when some were escorted outside Greenock Jobcentre by staff from Pertemps for mouth swabs to be taken - as cars drove past and pedestrians walked by.
Greenock TelegraphSunday PostThe SunMore on the ICO code on workers’ health informationRisks 428 • 17 October 2009

Australia: Union wins drug test concessions
An Australian construction union has negotiated major concessions on a random drug testing policy introduced by oil giant Shell. CFMEU described the deal, which prohibits urine tests, as a “significant decision in protecting employees’ privacy and improving drug and alcohol testing standards throughout the workforce.”
CFMEU news releaseSydney Morning HeraldRisks 408 • 30 May 2009

Britain: Drug tests used to jettison staff
Employers are increasingly using drug testing to get rid of staff without having to make redundancy payouts, a drugs and human rights charity has said. Release has reported a four-fold increase in calls to its drugs team about problems with workplace testing in the first three months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.
The GuardianHazards drugs webpagesRisks 407 • 23 May 2009

Britain: Rugby star cleared of asthma drugs charge
A professional rugby player who tested positive for his asthma medication has fought off a ban threat with the help of his union. GMB member Ian Sibbit, a second-row forward with Salford City Reds, found himself facing drug misuse charges after an independent drugs test last year showed high levels of the asthma drug salbutamol in his system.
GMB news releaseManchester Evening NewsBBC News OnlineRisks 398 • 21 March 2009

Britain: Alarm over sea breath test plans  
Seafarers’ union Nautilus UK has warned that international drug and alcohol testing proposals could turn shipmasters into “onboard police officers” carrying out the tests. The concerns, raised jointly with industry organisation the Chamber of Shipping, were prompted by proposals tabled at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Nautilus UK news releaseRisks 391 • 31 January 2009

Australia: Union alarm at Qantas testing push
An airline union has warned that Qantas is using new regulations as a “smokescreen” to introduce a draconian drug and alcohol testing policy. The Australian Services Union (ASU) says “there is no real evidence of a culture of drug and alcohol abuse at Qantas and the unions believe that many of these changes represent an unwarranted intrusion into your private lives.”
ASU news releaseRisks 386 • 13 December 2008

Britain: Firm pays after unfair alcohol sacking
Northeast Press has been ordered by an employment tribunal to pay an award of more than £20,000 after unfairly sacking a senior journalist with a drink problem. Journalists’ union NUJ, who backed senior sub-editor Paul Gray’s tribunal case, says it highlights the importance of employers fully implementing their alcohol and drugs policies.
Hazards guidance on drugs and alcohol policies Risks 366 • 26 July 2008

Britain: Job applicants facing more drug tests
More companies are checking on potential employees by carrying out drug and alcohol tests on their hair, according to a supplier of testing products. Trimega Laboratories managing director Avi Lasarow said: “More and more corporates employing high-profile executives are looking to test potential employees.”
Impaired thinking: The case for workplace drug and alcohol tests has no substance, Hazards, number 100, October-December 2007 • Risks 343 • 16 February 2008

Britain: Amazon lied about drug test
Internet giant Amazon wrongly branded a worker a druggie and fired him, an employment tribunal has heard. Khalid Elkhader was awarded £3,453 in compensation after managers at the firm’s west of Scotland facility told him he had tested positive for amphetamine and fired him – however, he was told a second negative test was positive.
Greenock TelegraphImpaired thinking: The case for workplace drug and alcohol testing has no substance, Hazards magazine, number 100, 2007 • 8 December 2007

Britain: TUC says sort out work hazards not workers
Many employers have a healthier appetite for addressing their employees’ diet, exercise and smoking habits than addressing the work-related causes of ill-health, the TUC has said. In a TUC submission to Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of the working age population, the TUC says employers’ attempts to encourage healthy living are most effective when they look at how work can contribute to or cause lifestyle problems and warns against employers moralising over lifestyle issues, like drug and alcohol use.
TUC news release and full response to the consultationMore on the union approach to work and health issues • Hazards news, 1 December 2007

Britain: Impaired thinking on work drugs tests
Britain’s employers have a big drug and alcohol problem – they are wasting millions on testing and firing workers. A new report in the trade union health and safety journal Hazards says employer support and a healthier working environment would provide a cheaper and more effective resolution to ‘impairment’ problems.
Impaired thinking: The case for workplace drug and alcohol tests has no substance, Hazards, number 100, October-December 2007 • Hazards drug and alcohol and workplace testing webpages • 17 November 2007

Britain: Firms urged to give substance misuse support
Firms must do more to help staff struggling with drink and drug misuse problems, a new report has recommended. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) employer relations adviser, Ben Willmott, said the firms that helped their staff had a good success rate in getting them back to work - with 60 per cent staying with the company after overcoming problems, but only half of the employers quizzed gave access to counselling for workers fighting dependencies on drink or drugs, with just 38 per cent offering coordinated rehabilitation.
CIPD Managing drugs and alcohol misuse at workPeople Management magazineHazards drugs and alcohol news and resources • 22 September 2007

Britain: Workers living in fear under 'brutal' Amazon
Amazon workers are living in fear of heavy-handed bosses, a Scottish employment expert has warned. Jim McCourt has spoken out about the random body searches and ongoing drug tests he says are commonplace in the factory which ships out books, CDs and DVDs across Scotland.
Greenock Telegraph • Hazards news and resources on workplace drug tests and other work privacy issues • 28 July 2007

Substance abuse tests of ‘minimal’ use
An Australian union body has welcomed a new report by a federal government agency that concludes workplace drug and alcohol tests are of little use. Brian Boyd, secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC), said the report’s finding that “the advantages of implementing testing regimes for the general working population could be quite minimal” is “an overdue piece of commonsense research”.
VTHC news release, 8 June 2007 • ASCC publication alert . Work-related alcohol and drug use - A fit for work issue, ASCC, June 2007. Full report [pdf] and executive summary [pdf]

Canada: Union body says no to drug and booze tests
Unions should oppose mandatory drug and alcohol testing, a top Canadian union body has said. The call came in a new policy statement from the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), the province’s largest union body, which says testing does not improve safety performance but does impinge on workers’ rights.
AFL news release • Workplace drug and alcohol policy statement, AFL, October 2006 [pdf] • Risks 281 • 4 November 2006

Britain: Stressed workers 'turning to drink'
A growing number of workers are turning to drink to help cope with the effects of work-related stress, according to new research.
Risks 261 • 17 June 2006

New Zealand: Meat company films naked workers
A New Zealand meat company is defending its use of covert filming in staff shower rooms, claiming it is the only way to catch employees taking drugs. Unions at Affco says drugs say they are dismayed at the practice.
Risks 210 • 11 June 2005

Finland: New law restricts workplace drug tests
Unions in Finland have welcomed new regulations on workplace drug tests that on 1 October placed strict limitations on the use of drug tests at work. The unions say the first role of the new law is the protection of worker privacy.
Risks 177 • 9 October 2004

Britain: Firms want clear guidelines on workplace drug testing
Few UK companies carry out any form of drug testing in the workplace, but two-thirds want clearer guidelines on the issue, a new survey claims. Law firm Blake Lapthorn Linnell found just 10 per cent of the respondents to its survey actually carried out any form of drug testing and most of these were overwhelmingly of the opinion that drug use was not an issue for their organisation (75 per cent).
Risks 173 • 11 September 2004

Global: Unions respond to push for work drug tests
Unions are being called into action as employers worldwide try to impose drug tests as an alternative to better workplace support and safety standards.
Risks 171 • 28 August 2004

Britain: BA staff to face drink and drugs tests
A new British Airways policy introducing workplace drink and drugs tests has taken effect. The policy had been the subject of a lengthy battle with unions, who argued that tests were intrusive and did not work as well as peer-to-peer support.
Risks 168 • 7 August 2004

USA: Failure to give urine means you're out
Thousands of workers with "Shy Bladder Syndrome" are facing the sack because they can't produce a urine sample on demand for workplace drugs tests.
Risks 164 • 11 July 2004

Britain: TUC view vindicated in drug tests report
An independent report has backed the TUC line that almost all workplace drug tests are a costly and damaging waste of time. The report of the Independent Inquiry into Drug Testing at Work following an 18-month investigation and concluded drug tests were a gross infringement on personal liberty, could have only a "limited impact on safety and performance" and that testing was a "costly and divisive" way of managing employees, and was an "inappropriate use of managerial power".

The TUC gave evidence to the inquiry and was represented on its steering group. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "The increased use of drug testing at work will boost the profits of companies peddling testing regimes but will do nothing for the productivity, safety or profitability of UK companies." He added: "The TUC believes that testing is only appropriate for staff in safety critical posts and should be part of a comprehensive safety strategy that includes support for staff who test positive, and the report supports this position. The government should adopt the report's recommendations by issuing clear guidance to business on drug testing at work and its practical and legal limits, as well introducing an accreditation system for testing companies."

The inquiry report warns that workplace tests could "increase dramatically and become a fact of everyday working life." A poll for the inquiry found 78 per cent of employers would consider tests if they though drug and alcohol use was affecting productivity.

TUC news releaseDrugScope news release • Drug testing in the workplace, Independent Inquiry into Drug Testing at Work, free online or as a paperback for £15.95 plus £2 postage and packing.

Britain: BA crew face drug and alcohol tests
British Airways is to test its 47,000 staff for drugs and alcohol, under a contentious new policy. It believes it is the first airline in Europe to introduce its own on-the-spot tests, in a policy which follows a four-year wrangle with unions.
Risks 163 • 3 July 2004

Britain: Working-while-sober sackings upheld
Six Tube workers who were sacked after empty beer cans were found in a mess room have lost their unfair dismissal case. The sackings under a "zero tolerance" policy were upheld despite tests finding none of the workers were positive for drugs or alcohol.
Risks 163 • 3 July 2004

Australia: Rail unions condemn "beer nannies"
Management at RailCorp in Australia has ordered supervisors to monitor the alcohol intake of workers out of hours in a move unions say shows drug and alcohol testing is off the rails.
Risks 160 • 12 June 2004

New Zealand: Unions need right to challenge drug tests
Union leader Andrew Little says employees should watch out for employers trying to adopt random drug testing on a point of principle when they should be limited to "safety sensitive" jobs. The EPMU national secretary said: "The question of what is safety sensitive seems to have been left by the court to management's prerogative."
Risks 156 • 15 May 2004

New Zealand: Court limits work drug tests scope
New Zealand's largest union says it is to put all workplace drug testing regimes under close scrutiny in the wake of a landmark court decision. The Employment Court ruled that Air New Zealand may not impose random tests for drugs or alcohol across its workforce, but may introduce them in "safety sensitive areas."
Risks 152 • 14 April 2004

Britain:Pilots call for peer support for alcohol problems
Pilot's union BALPA has said workers with alcohol problems should be given support, not the sack. A peer intervention scheme wojld enable any pilot who has a problem to obtain support from a trained BALPA representative and would neither lose their job nor seniority.
Risks 151 • 10 April 2004

Britain: Salvage company to breath test staff every morning
A Scottish company is to breath test its staff before they are allowed to start work. The move by property salvage specialists FFDR has been welcomed by a business group but has been criticised by civil liberties groups, who claim this will be the first step towards a Big Brother-style workplace.
Risks 149 • 27 March 2004

Britain: Workers driven to drink by bad jobs
Undervalued and overworked employees are being driven to drink by their bad jobs, new research shows. The findings, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, are based on a study of 8,000 British civil servants.
Risks 146 • 6 March 2004

Britain: Tube staff to strike in sober sackings row
London Underground workers are to stage a one-day strike in a row over the sacking of sober maintenance staff under a "zero tolerance" alcohol policy.
Risks 146 • 6 March 2004

Britain: Strike ballot over Tube working-while-sober sackings
Tube maintenance workers are being balloted on possible industrial action in support of workmates who were sacked after empty beer cans were found in their mess room.
Risks 144 • 21 February 2004

Britain: RMT action call in working-while-sober sackings
Rail union RMT is to hold a strike ballot over the dismissal of five Metronet Tube maintenance workers, fired after empty beer cans were found in a cabin. RMT says the "Farringdon Five" were randomly selected for the chop - all five had negative drug and alcohol tests.
Risks 141 • 31 January 2004

Britain: Stressed pilots driven to drink
Airline pilots driven to drink by soaring workplace stress need support, not the sack, say experts. Pilots' union BALPA says there should be a system where any pilot can try and persuade another to go to a neutral board where they don't lose their job but get help."
Risks 138 • 10 January 2004

Australia: Union takes on "punitive" drugs policies
An Australian union says its members will not stand for "punitive" drug and alcohol policies. AWU national secretary Bill Shorten said: "Too many companies have implemented drug and alcohol testing policies that are punitive rather than educative and may drive the very few workers in our society with problems underground."
Risks 136 • 13 December 2003

Britain: Workplace snoopers face legal clampdown
The growing employer taste for drug and alcohol tests, genetic screening and snooping into personal medical histories could be ruled out of order by the government. Information Commissioner Richard Thomas says the latest phase of the consultation on the Employment Practices Data Protection Code will cover information about workers' health - and a draft of the code would severely restrict the circumstances in which employers could use drug, alcohol or gene tests or access medical records.
Risks 135 • 6 December 2003

Britain: Sober workers fired under "zero tolerance" policy
Five maintenance workers cleared by tests of any drug or alcohol use have been fired after facing what their union warned would be a "kangaroo court." The rail union RMT says there could be industrial action after the workers were sacked over the discovery of empty alcohol cans and bottles in a mess room.
Risks 135 • 6 December 2003

Britain: Just say no… to drug and alcohol tests
A TUC-backed report is warning that the law does not give workers sufficient protection against the increasing use of unjustified and degrading drink and drug testing at work. The "Testing times" report, published in the latest issue of the TUC backed Hazards magazine, asked UK unions if they had experienced problems with workplace drug testing and discovered serious concerns ranging from "chain of custody" of samples, to the use of drugs tests to harass "troublesome" workers.
Risks 134 • See: Hazards testing times webpage 29 November 2003

Australia: Ruling upholds drug testing at work
A West Australia company's move to implement a "fitness for duty" policy which involves testing for the presence of drugs irrespective of any impairment has been upheld by the WA Industrial Relations Commission. Senior Commissioner Andrew Beech declared that it was reasonable for Pioneer Construction Materials to conduct urine tests on its employees. The policy had been challenged by unions, who threatened to walk off the job if tests were introduced.
Risks 133 • 22 November 2003

New Zealand: Airline drugs tests unlawful, say unions
A legal challenge to Air New Zealand's plans to drugs test its workers has reached the courts. Six unions, led by the EPMU, say the airline has no legal right to test its 10,000 employees for traces of drugs or alcohol and wants the court to issue permanent injunctions preventing Air New Zealand from implementing the policy, and a precedent-setting declaration that the proposed policy was unlawful and unreasonable.
Risks 127 • 11 October 2003

Britain:
Critics wide-eyed at drug tests cheek
A UK company is pushing a new gizmo it says will tell bosses if workers are under the influence of drugs or drink. Hampton Knight, the firm distributing the £10,000 US-built portable eye scanner, told business leaders the device is able to tell if employees have taken anything from alcohol and cannabis to hard drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or heroin.
Risks 126 • 4 October 2003

Britain: Police officers may face random drugs tests
The government is to reconsider introducing random drug tests for police officers in England and Wales. The Police Federation, the organisation representing frontline police officers, is opposed to the idea.
Risks 123 • 13 September 2003

Britain: Teachers use drink and drugs for stress
Teachers and other school staff are turning to anti-depressants and alcohol to cope with rising stress levels. The findings came in response to a Wrexham council survey, undertaken after concerns were raised by the Health and Safety Executive.
Risks 122Hazards guide to sensible drugs and alcohol policies • 6 September 2003

Australia: Unions want a role in substance use at work
Unions in Australia are warning that workplace drugs and alcohol policies should be introduced only in consultation with unions. The New South Wales Labor Council says its submission to an official "alcohol summit" in the state will raise concerns about employers unilaterally imposing policies, ignoring guidance agreed by unions, police and official safety and health agencies.
Risks 121 • 30 August 2003

Global: Drug testing plans backfire on bosses
Attempts by airlines to force through mandatory drug tests are facing stiff union resistance. Qantas union AMWU has said the tests are an unacceptable breach of privacy, don’t work and are a diversion from real safety concerns. And unions in New Zealand say if New Zealand Air is really concerned about "impairment," that is what it should test for - and should clampdown on the fatigue and other work factors that are a far more likely cause.
Risks 120 • 23 August 2003

Australia: Unions just say no… to drugs tests
Australian employers are finding they are testing workers’ patience as they attempt to railroad mandatory drug testing a work. Thousands of Qantas workers at mass meetings this week resolved not to participate in the airline’s drug testing proposals.
Risks 118 • 9 August 2003

Australia: The drug tests don’t work, they make it worse
Punitive workplace drug and alcohol testing regimes are unfair and self-defeating, according to a top pharmacologist. Expert witness Dr Judith Perl told a transport industry forum in Sydney that punishment based on random drug testing will do nothing to make workplaces safer and will lead "to many, many mistakes."
Risks 116 • 26 July 2003

Britain: Move towards work drug testing
Four out of five employers would be prepared to drug test their employees if they thought productivity was at stake, a survey found. The research for the Independent Inquiry into Drug Testing at Work found that very few firms at present test their workers for banned substances.
Risks 116 • 26 July 2003

New Zealand: Unions file claims in drugs test case
Six aviation industry unions have lodged papers with the Employment Court opposing a drug and alcohol-testing regime proposed by Air New Zealand. The unions, headed by EPMU, say the company has no lawful right to demand urine or breath samples at any time from its 10,000 staff.
Risks 115 • 19 July 2003

Australia: Qantas unions say no to testing
Unions at the Australian airline Qantas have told the company to "get serious about safety" and want it to wean itself off its obsession with alcohol and drug tests. National union federation ACTU and 10 Qantas unions say there is no place at work for people "impaired" by drugs or alcohol, but says the proposed alcohol and drug policy will not make the workplace safer.
Risks 115, 19 July 2003 • 19 July 2003

New Zealand: Unions challenge airline drugs tests
An airline’s plans to randomly test its employees for drugs and alcohol are being challenged in a union test case. A group of six unions have won the right to have their case against Air New Zealand considered at a special judicial hearing in October. Risks 114 • 12 July 2003

Britain: Rig union condemns blanket drugs tests
Blanket drugs tests on 350 North Sea rig workers have been condemned by their union, Amicus-AEEU. American firm Apache began the urine tests on workers after a parcel of amphetamines was allegedly found heading for one of its platforms in the Forties fields.
Risks 101, 12 April 2003 • 12 April 2003

Britain: Employers have bad drug and alcohol habits
Only half of all managers believe their organisation has or is developing a policy on drugs and alcohol, according to a new study. Despite this, over half support random drug and alcohol testing at work and over a quarter back instant dismissal after a positive drug test.
Risks 100 • 5 April 2003

Britain: Drink and work - a potent cocktail
People are drinking more now than ever before, but too few employers have alcohol policies in place or are dealing with the underlying causes including stress and overwork, a TUC report has warned.
Risks 94 • 22 February 2003

Australia: Unions fight random alcohol testing
Unions are fighting a plan by Australian defence contractor Tenix to introduce an "intolerant" random alcohol testing policy. The company wants to impose tough penalties for workers found to have a blood alcohol reading above 0.02, a quarter the UK drink-drive limit.
Risks 93 • 15 February 2003

USA: Injured worker drug and alcohol tests "illegal" says court
The Ohio Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional a law that allows employers to give drug or alcohol tests to people injured at work. The ruling struck down a portion of Ohio's compensation law that made it possible for employers to deny workers' compensation to employees who refuse to take a drug or alcohol tests after a workplace injury.
Risks 88 • 11 January 2003

Australia: Union builds case against drug tests at work
Random drug and alcohol testing in the workplace will be discouraged under new guidelines being developed by union, police, health department and official safety agencies. Union body the New South Wales (NSW) Labor Council has brought together health and safety experts to draw up advice to employers after several companies tried to introduce policies that subject their staff to random testing.
Risks 78 • 2 November 2002

Finland: Growing problem of drug test use
Finnish companies are initiating employee drug testing programmes, even though employers and unions are yet to reach agreement on the issue. Official estimates say about 10,000 drug tests will be conducted this year, and as many as 15,000 in 2003.
Risks 78 • 2 November 2002

Britain: Stressed Britons "turn to drink"
British people spend more money on alcohol to help them cope with stress than any of their European counterparts, according to a survey. The survey results portray a Europe populated by uptight individuals, looking for ways to wind down. Most people's concerns were related to work and commuting.
BBC News Online • 28 June 2002

Australia: Drug and alcohol tests for workers
Thousands of workers in the Australian state of Victoria face on-the-spot drug and alcohol tests under an employer crackdown on workplace safety. Under the plans, which have the backing of the employers' organisation VECCI but have been opposed by unions, private testing teams would swoop on workplaces, take saliva readings with a swab and getting instant test results.
Risks 57 • 8 June 2002

Australia: Work surveillance may be banned
Spy cameras, e-mail monitoring, medical, drug, alcohol, genetic and other surveillance may be banned or curtailed in workplaces in the Australian state of Victoria if they are found to breach workers' privacy.
Herald Sun • 6 March 2002

Australia: Union objects to cameras in toilets
The permanent positioning of cameras in the toilets of a drug testing facility in Mount Isa Mines is a gross invasion of privacy and an example of drug testing policy gone mad, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has said.
Workers Online • The Age • 11 February 2002

South Korea: Drink-related ill-health is an industrial disease
Illness caused by widespread work related drinking is to be treated as anindustrial accident under a new insurance system to be introduced in South Korea. After hours drinking with the boss or clients is an established part of South Korean corporate culture and is even encouraged by some companies to strengthen team spirit. But new rules to come into force in March - will expand the scope of work-related conditions covered by industrial accident insurance, the Labor Ministry said. "If work-related drinking causes serious health problems, you'll be covered," a ministry official told AFP. If you have a liver disease from boozing with your boss, you are also covered, he said, adding the ministry was drawing up detailed standards on industrial accidents. Job-induced asthma, skin diseases, hepatitis, stress, depression and death caused by work will be designated as industrial accidents, he said.
Yahoo news • 21 Janaury 2002

USA: Antibiotics cause false positives on heroin test
The use of certain antibiotics may cause an unsuspecting job applicant to test positive for heroin at a pre-employment health screening session - even though they've never touched the drug. Dr. Lindsey R. Baden of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues tested 13 different types of antibiotics, to see what effect they would have on commercial opiate tests. Opiates are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, and several other controlled or medicinal drugs such as methadone, morphine, Demerol and codeine. Most of the antibiotics caused positive results. Cipro, the drug given to thousands of US workers to fight possible anthrax risk, resulted in a positive test in one out of five tests. According to Baden, it is possible that people have suffered consequences of a false positive test, because "a positive drug test is often assumed true, while the protestations of the person being tested are looked at as self-serving." In August, the UK Drug and Alcohol Workplace Service warned against "crude" workplace testing.
Quinolones and False-Positive Urine Screening for Opiates by Immunoassay Technology, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol.286, pages 3115-3119, 2001 online abstractRisks 34 • 29 December 2001

Britain: Just in time - TUC orders drink and drugs policy
The TUC has launched a guide to drugs and alcohol in the workplace and called on employers to develop workplace policies. TUC general secretary John Monks said: "Trade unionists should see that effective policies are pursued at work, both to prevent substance abuse and to help those who may have become dependent on alcohol or drugs. Employers have a duty of care to their employees under both employment and health and safety law.The introduction of a comprehensive, planned drug and alcohol policy covering the whole of the workforce can have significant benefits for employers, employees with an alcohol or drug problem, as well as for their colleagues." The TUC Drunk or disordered report says employers should: Recognise that alcohol/drug misuse is a health problem; prevent drug/alcohol misuse by developing awareness programmes; identify employees with a problem at an early stage; and provide assistance to employees with drug/alcohol related problems.
Risks 33 • Also see: TUC news release • 22 December 2001

South Africa: Union victory on substance abuse policy
The South African Labour Court has ruled that transport company Metrorail invaded workers' common-law and constitutional rights to privacy and to bodily and psychological integrity by introducing compulsory testing for drugs and alcohol. Dozens of Metrorail workers had been disciplined for refusing to be tested for alcohol since the policy was instituted four months ago. In a statement, transport union Satawu welcomed the ruling, adding: 'Satawu has never been opposed to negotiating a substance abuse policy with Metrorail, inclusive of a provision for voluntary testing. However the union will not accept an approach that seeks to deal with substance abuse in an authoritarian way.'
Satawu statement • Risks 29 • 24 November 2001

Britain: Workers not told what bosses are doing
One in three UK companies is considering introducing alcohol and drug tests for employees, according to a Personnel Today survey of 306 employers. The survey, conducted jointly with charities Alcohol Concern and Drug Scope,found 75 per cent of employers believe alcohol use to be a cause of absenteeism and 31 per cent of employers think drugs to be an absence cause. Commenting on the survey, TUC's Tom Mellish said: "This survey shows the failure of employers to manage alcohol and drugs at workand must cast serious doubts over their ability to manage staff generally. Of the 77 per cent of these firms with an alcohol or drugs policy, only 25 per cent bothered to communicate the policy to their staff. These may be the kinds of business which will be frightened, by either media hype or unscrupulous consultants, into introducing testing, whether they have aproblem or not, bringing them more problems than it solves."
Risks 14 • 12 August 2001

Britain: Business should forget drug tests
The TUC has criticised a business organisation for attempting to justify drug and alcohol testing at work as a health and safety measure. Former Conservative MP Piers Merchant, now Director of Campaigns at the London Chamber of Commerce, said ahead of a 19 June 2001 business conference: "Substance abuse is a major issue for business especially with growing numbers of women developing drink problems. For firms there is the added risk of being prosecuted under health and safety legislation or sued as a result of an action by a worker suffering from the effects of drink or drugs." But TUC general secretary John Monks said Merchant was missing the point. "This is just another example of blaming workers for injuries and illnesses actually caused by plain bad management. All the reliable evidence shows that the main cause of injuries at work is management failure - it certainly isn't alcohol - and if people at work are drinking more, you have to ask whether the rampaging epidemic of long hours, staff cuts and stress is to blame. Drug and alcohol testing don't work, they are often an abuse of management power, and they are treating the symptom instead of the cause."
London Chamber of Commerce • 19 June 2001

USA: US unions fight against substance addiction
New York unions are helping members conquer alcohol and drug addiction - achieving better results than 'professional' assistance programmes. A report in New York-based magazine Village Voice says: 'In a quiet and mostly unheralded success story, union sponsored member assistance programs have become one of the country's most successful bulwarks against alcoholism and drug abuse.' UK drugs czar Keith Hellawell has recently been urging companies here to liaise with unions on workplace drug use issues, and met with TUC General Secretary John Monks on Monday, 21 May 2001.
Risks 3 • Village Voice • 3 May 2001

 

 

 

 

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Employers have a big drug and alcohol problem. They are wasting millions on testing and firing workers. Providing support and a healthier working environment would provide a cheaper and more effective resolution to the bad working conditions causing worker impairment.

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