ECan plans drug testing at work

Last updated 08:58 05/07/2014

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Environment Canterbury (ECan) workers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work may soon be tested.

The regional council is reviewing its workplace drug and alcohol policy. The proposal is out for consultation to unions and staff.

ECan director of operations Wayne Holton-Jeffreys said the existing policy was to test after an accident.

If the proposals were accepted, ECan could test if there was "reasonable cause".

"Reasonable cause exists when an employee exhibits patterns of behaviour that suggest impairment from drug or alcohol use, or when job performance or safety is affected," he said.

No staff have been tested under the existing rules.

Southern Local Government Officers Union secretary Angela Watson said it had not seen the proposals but it was not typical for employers to drug test "desk-bound" jobs.

Amalgamated Workers' Union secretary Lindsay Chappell said drug testing was common in transport fields.

The union did not approve of urine testing and preferred swab testing, he said.

Swab testing showed drug use in the last 12 hours as opposed to "ridiculous" urine testing, which could show drug use weeks prior, Chappell said.

"I had a chap who had not used drugs for 70 days, and still could not produce a clean test. It was just ridiculous." he said.

The test was whether the staff member was impaired on the day rather than months ago, Chappell said.

"We do not condone drug and alcohol use in the work- place."

ECan said drug and alcohol testing was part of its "zero harm" policy.

If adopted, the policy will be in operation before the end of the year.

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