View Q&A – Drug and Alcohol Policy Development Workshop

View the Q&A from our Drug and Alcohol Policy Development Workshop.

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During our Drug and Alcohol Policy Development Workshop held on 29 November 2023, numerous questions were asked, some of which we did not have time to answer during the session. Below are all the questions asked, along with our responses.

Should you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at or 1300 795 227.

Webinar Q&A

Performing the testing of wastewater, is that something you can carry out on all sites? Is it an easy test to complete?

Wastewater testing can be performed effectively at any site. All that is required is to get access to the effluent outflow or the wastewater holding tanks for sampling. If required, Safework Health can send our staff to your sites and assess what needs to be done for testing and advise on the optimum testing regime tailored to your needs. Wastewater testing requires as a minimum that the number of staff at the site at the time of testing be made available. The effluent flow rate would be helpful but is not critical, as it can be approximated from the staff numbers assuming the average number of toilet visits and the average Australian toilet flush volume. Each sampling episode is easily done by taking ~300mL of wastewater from the effluent stream. Reports will be available within 7 working days of receipt of the sample.

Do we need to notify the employees that we are going to conduct wastewater testing?

There is no requirement – either legally or by custom, in Australia or internationally – to inform a site that wastewater testing is being or is planned to be performed. Wastewater testing is a whole-site testing procedure and does not impact the individual workers. Results reveal the magnitude of drug use at a site collectively and cannot identify the individual workers involved, so no case can be made for generally informing a site that testing will take place.

Do you see a time when we will have standards for hair testing?

It is generally believed the European SoHT (Society of Hair Testing) recommendations will be adopted as the international standard for hair testing by the EU over the next 2 to 3 years – specifically the 2022 Consensus on Hair Testing. The current delay is due to problems reconciling French guidelines with German practice. Once the EU has given its imprimatur, the US and Australia will follow suit to comply with international best practice guidelines.

Can you share that evidence base for >1 per year drug and alcohol testing programs reducing accidents by X%?

In progress. The review of the literature will be made available on 12 December 2023.

Do the laboratory test results reflect how long ago the worker is likely to have taken THC? Namely, can the result be converted into a rough timeline of when the THC was used?

No exact figure can be given. Urinary THC (provided the donor’s physiological details are supplied) may potentially supply the most accurate (albeit rough) estimate.

The oral fluid detection window for THC is roughly 8-12 hrs for standard doses of medicinal cannabis, ~ 12-18 hours for a NIDA-standard low dose 5mg THC cigarette, 18-24+hrs for a NIDA moderate dose 10mg THC cigarette. By use of the detection window a crude estimate of the maximum time since use can be made.

Urine detection windows are more complex. THC is a lipid-soluble molecule which partitions into the body fat. The more frequent the use of cannabis, and/or the more adipose tissue a donor has, the longer the detection window for THC – ranging from 3 to 5 days for a standard NIDA cigarette in a donor with normal BMI to 7 days for an obese donor with a BMI > 28.

By factoring in the height/weight and age of the donor and the stated frequency of use, a rough estimate of the time since use (i.e., more than ‘x’ hours but less than ‘y’ hours before collection) can be made for a range of THC doses, as well as determining whether a particular urinary THC level is consistent with the donor’s stated dosage and declared time since use. It should be noted these estimates are rough and not exact and that, while oral fluid THC correlates well with THC-associated impairment (if it’s not detected, the donor’s not affected), urinary THC levels do not correlate with impairment.

Watch The Webinar

Did you miss the webinar? Don’t worry, you can watch a recording of the webinar here.

UPCOMING WEBINAR – Drug and Alcohol Policy Development Workshop

Join our webinar and discover the keys to crafting a customised drug and alcohol policy that perfectly suits your business. Register now!

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Are you concerned about workplace substance abuse and the legal responsibilities it entails? We invite you to our upcoming webinar, where we’ll equip you with essential insights and tools to create a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Policy tailored to your business’s unique needs.

Date: Wednesday, 29 November
Time: 1 PM AEDT


The event will be made available on-demand to all registrants, so even if you can’t make the live show, please register. 

In this webinar, we will explore:

  • Legislative Requirements and Fiduciary Duty-of-Care: We’ll dive into the legal obligations and fiduciary responsibilities related to workplace drug testing.
  • Assessing Your Workplace Needs: Learn how to assess your workplace to determine the extent of substance abuse issues and identify specific needs.
  • Developing a Written Policy: We’ll provide guidelines and a template to help you create a robust and effective drug-free workplace policy.
  • Implementing Drug Testing: Discover how to choose the right test mix and testing strategy to suit your business’s requirements, including considerations for frequency and types of testing.
  • Education & Training: Explore the importance of providing education and training for employees and additional training for supervisors and other relevant staff.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Gain insights into setting up and assessing your EAP to support employees dealing with substance abuse issues.


Meet Our Webinar Speaker

Dr Phil Tynan, National Chief Toxicologist

Dr Tynan, a renowned Toxicologist, and retired Clinical Biochemist Pathologist, offers a wealth of industry experience. He specialises in substance abuse testing, supports Safework Health in developing new assays and procedures, and provides expert advice to clients. With publications in peer-reviewed journals, Dr Tynan is available for result consultation, expert witness testimony, and court appearances.

How to Establish a Drug-Free Environment in the Workplace

Tips for employers who wish to establish a drug-free environment in the workplace

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A lot employers these days have already realised how important it is to have a drug-free environment in the workplace.

With all the trouble attached to drug-related mishaps and incidents in the workplace, the decision by employers to implement a workplace drug policy is a wise one. Some employers, however, don’t know where to begin just yet.

Here are some tips for employers who wish to establish a drug-free environment in the workplace for the first time.

Decide on what you want to accomplish

What do you intend to accomplish when you implement a workplace drug policy? Do you want to catch those who come to work impaired by drugs? Do you want to be able to identify who are drug users in general among your employees? Are you planning to conduct pre-hire testing to make sure you don’t get to hire a drug user? These are the questions you need to consider and think about.

While pre-hire testing is easy and implementing it can be relatively inexpensive, regular drug tests for current employees can be costly, so make sure you have the budget for a consistent implementation of your workplace drug policy before actually implementing it.

Communicate your workplace drug policy to everyone

When you are done with drug safety policy development, make sure you communicate it clearly to everyone within the organisation.

For a small business owner, conveying the drug-free workplace message quickly and clearly can be easily done. All they need to do is implement an education and awareness program which will explain not only the pertinent details of the entire workplace drug policy, but also information on the adverse effects of drug abuse in the workplace.

Managers and supervisors can undergo drug training programs that will help them communicate the drug policy to everyone as clearly as possible.

Clearly state the actions to be taken if someone fails a drug test

If your workplace drug policy includes drug testing, then you need to state the consequences of failing a drug test. That said, you don’t really have to immediately terminate an employee if he or she tests positive for drug use.

You can allow these workers to undergo evaluation and treatment, and forge with the said employees a return-to-work agreement that involves periodic future testing just to make sure that they are, indeed, drug-free.

Get legal counsel before implementing a workplace drug policy

Talking to your lawyers and getting them to review every single word of your workplace drug policy is perhaps one of the most important steps you have to take before its implementation.

Remember, all your employees have rights, and if they feel that your workplace drug policy has violated those rights in any way, you might find yourself at the receiving end of a lawsuit.

That’s why you need to make sure that the workplace drug policy is airtight and that your workers have been thoroughly educated about it. Using reasonable methods, following established testing procedures, and doing the tests right will also help you avoid litigation, which will always be costly no matter what the outcome.

What to include in your Drug and Alcohol Policy

A drug and alcohol policy is crucial to help maintain the health and safety of your employees.

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If you’re an employer and you haven’t drafted a clear cut workplace drug and alcohol policy just yet, don’t worry. You’re not alone, as countless other companies have yet to formally write down rules for their employees to follow as far as drugs and alcohol are concerned.

However, don’t take too long to come up with a drug and alcohol policy for the workplace. Every day counts, and you don’t want to be dealing with a drug and alcohol-related issue in the workplace without a policy in place.

Read on to find out what you should include in your drug and alcohol policy.

The purpose and objectives of the drug and alcohol policy

It should be made clear what the drug and alcohol policy is for. Generally, it’s all about ensuring the health and safety of everyone in the workplace, but you might also want to state how the policy can also help the company achieve its productivity and overall business goals.

Coverage of the drug and alcohol policy

Ideally, a drug and alcohol policy should cover all workers — from rank and file employees to top-tier management. Drug and alcohol abuse, after all, doesn’t make such distinctions.

Clear statement about confidentiality

A workplace drug and alcohol policy should clearly state that it recognises a worker’s right to confidentiality. The program is confidential, that any drug test results or penalties meted on an erring employee would be held in the strictest confidence.

A total ban on drug and alcohol use in the workplace

Your drug and alcohol policy should explicitly state that using drugs or drinking alcohol while on duty will never be tolerated. Many workplace accidents are caused by a worker who is impaired, which means they used drugs or alcohol before going to work or during the workday.

A provision for employee education

You can’t just put an entire drug and alcohol policy in writing and expect everyone to follow it just by providing them copies.

On top of making sure that everyone in the workplace has a copy, it would also be best for a drug and alcohol testing program to be implemented as well.

Such a program should have a provision for employee education, including arrangements for drug and alcohol awareness training that will make everything about the drug and alcohol policy crystal clear to everyone have been made.

The education program should also include arrangements for training employees, supervisors, and others how to spot signs of drug and alcohol abuse and impaired behaviour.

How a drug testing program will be implemented

If your drug and alcohol policy includes a program for on-site drug testing, it has to be up front about how it’s going to be conducted, or under what circumstances are they going to be done. For instance, people will need to know if the program includes random drug testing, or what drug testing method is going to be used.

Provision for disciplinary actions

Should there be employees who breach the drug and alcohol policy, it should be stated clearly what disciplinary actions will be taken against them. The kind of substance used, the severity of the offense, the degree of impairment, if proven, are all factors that need to be considered when coming up with disciplinary actions.

Provision for assisting chronic substance abusers

A drug and alcohol policy, however, should not be all about punishing those who breach it. They also need help, particularly those who are chronic substance abusers. Provisions for assisting them should also be included in the policy. In most cases, employers course this kind of assistance through Employee Assistance Programs, which are intended to help employees deal with personal issues—drug and alcohol abuse included—that could jeopardise their health, well-being and job performance.

Learn more

Safework Health has developed and reviewed thousands of drug and alcohol policies for businesses in a range of industries and sectors across Australia.

Contact us today to learn more.


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