The struggle between employers and unions over the best way to test workers for drugs continues, with an energy company set to appeal a recent FairWork Australia (FWA) decision which ruled in favour of saliva over urine when testing for drugs.  

The company wants to introduce a new drugs policy which will allow it to test the urine of workers. Such a policy is in line with the long running argument of employers that urine testing is a more accurate measure to determine if a worker is under the influence of drugs, has a lower incidence of false positive readings and is therefore more reliable than saliva swabs.  

The objection to urine testing by workers is on the basis that it is intrusive – not only the testing process itself but by the fact the test picks up drugs lingering in the body which may have been taken days before when the worker was off duty.  

FWA ruled that while both methods were susceptible to cheating, saliva swabs were better at detecting an immediate impairment. This decision contradicted a FWA ruling last year which upheld a mining company's bid to continue to test workers' urine for drugs on the basis that on-site saliva testing was more flawed than on-site urine testing.  

While the best method for drug testing may still be in dispute, the importance of a clear policy is not. There is no doubt that where plant and equipment are being used, impairment caused by drugs is a significant risk for employers to mitigate. In these circumstances, and considering the duty of an employer to provide a safe workplace, employers require a clear and relevant drugs and alcohol policy in place – both for employees and contractors.