Few councils push for drug checks

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 11:51 21/02/2013

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Waikato councils are divided over the merits of drug-testing workers, despite a growing trend nationwide to introduce compulsory testing in the workplace.

The Kapiti Coast District Council has introduced drug and alcohol testing for job applicants applying for "safety-related roles".

Such roles included operating heavy machinery, handling dangerous animals, and working in and around water.

Acting chief executive Tamsin Evans said the testing was not about catching out people, but aimed to bring the council in line with other public and private-sector groups.

Existing staff could also be tested if reasonable grounds existed.

But many Waikato councils contacted by the Times said they did not have a testing regime and had no plans for compulsory testing.

Hamilton City Council organisational development general manager Olly Te Ua said departments could request job applicants undergo testing when applying for "safety-sensitive positions", such as drivers and machine operators. The test can identify drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and cannabis, as well as alcohol.

Mr Te Ua said the council introduced a drug-and-alcohol policy a year ago that allowed for testing of current staff, but only after an accident or if grounds existed.

No employee had failed a test.

Waikato Regional Council corporate services group manager Junine Stewart said the council did not currently test applicants or carry out random testing of staff.

Ms Stewart said there had not been a problem identified that warranted introducing a large-scale and costly process.

"However, employees may be required to undergo drug or alcohol testing if there is reason to believe that they are reporting for work under the impairment of drugs or alcohol," she said.

Waipa District Council spokeswoman Lisa Nairne said the council did not drug-test or alcohol-test job applicants or existing staff, but was considering such testing.

Thames Coromandel District Council communications manager Ben Day said the council did not have a testing policy, and did not see the need at present.

Similarly, Waikato District Council chief executive Gavin Ion said there was no plan to start testing.

The employment services manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, David Lowe, said there was a trend in the private sector to introduce drug and alcohol policies, saying workplace safety was the main driver.

"What we've seen, especially after Pike River, is everyone is very mindful of health and safety in the workplace and everyone wants to ensure nobody is at risk.

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