Kapiti council to carry out drug tests

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 13:08 18/02/2013
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Job applicants with Kapiti Coast District Council face drug and alcohol testing under tightened council policies.

Testing was launched in December to bring the council in line with other public and private sector companies and groups, acting chief executive Tamsin Evans said.

It applies to applicants for certain safety-related roles, and covers everything from cocaine, heroin and LSD to cannabis.

"This move is about keeping us safe; about having respect for our employees and respect for our community. It is not about catching people out," Ms Evans said.

Under the policy, all applicants applying for safety-sensitive roles will be tested. Existing staff could also be tested if "reasonable grounds" exist for the tests.

"We need to have regard for the safety of our team members, and of course, the public at large," Ms Evans said.

There was no obvious drug and alcohol problem at the council.

"We are doing nothing more or less than most other good employers around New Zealand. "If someone proves positive, then we will deal with it on a case by case basis in accord with existing human resource practices," Ms Evans said.

Several job applicants had been tested since the introduction of the policy but the council had "not had any issues at this point".

The testing would be done by private company the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency, or an equivalent provider.

Testing would be done in such a way as to respect the employee or contractor's privacy and confidentiality.

On its website the company touts its urine testing product as what it believes is "the best on the market" for identifying at-risk employees.

"Urine testing is now well established, with the greatest range of detectable drugs and the biggest database of non-reacting substances. Its detection window of around a week is ideal for most screening, and is especially recommended for pre-employment testing."

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment advice says there are no employment laws dealing with workplace drug testing.

Whether testing is reasonable depends on a balance between legislation such as the Health and Safety in Employment Act, Human Rights Act, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and the Privacy Act.

It says a provision for testing in an employment agreement would likely give the right for workplace drug testing - otherwise informed consent is needed from the employee.

The costs of testing will come from the council's existing human resources budget.

DRUG-TESTED COUNCIL JOBS:

  • Operating heavy machinery
  • Working at heights or in confined spaces
  • Working with dangerous animals
  • Working in and around water treatment plants, solid waste plants, swimming pools
  • Working with chemicals

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