4 Common Drug and Alcohol Policy Mistakes

The top four most common drug and alcohol policy mistakes we see include:

  1. Incorrect cut-off levels – for example 50 ng/mL (or mg/L) is NOT the confirmatory cut-off level for Cannabis in urine testing (this is the screening cut-off level). We estimate that at least 30% of Policies in Australia reference incorrect cut-off levels of some sort. A confirmed positive test level and report from a laboratory of 45 ng/mL would be deemed to be “negative” using the incorrect level stated. This presents a considerable problem – is the person negative (under your policy) or positive (according to the lab report).
  2. Incongruent terminology – for example references to “zero tolerance”, “impairment” or “under the influence” are likely to seriously compromise a program facing a legal challenge. These terms are either specifically precluded based on the Australian Standards or have already been dealt with in the Industrial Relations Commission/ Fair Work Australia.
  3. Incorrect terminology – Referring to screening test results as “Positive” – this is specifically precluded in the Australian Standards. The obvious complication would be a sample referred to the laboratory which ultimately was reported as “negative” – when the sample had been declared “positive” whilst on-site. Obviously this has significant ramifications for individuals participating in the testing in terms of being falsely accused of an incorrect result.
  4. Medication provisions – Failing to accommodate legitimate pharmaceuticals (and even poppy seeds) – a number of pharmaceuticals can produce results both on screening tests and in confirmation tests that aren’t negative. Organisations that fail to accommodate individuals taking legitimate pharmaceuticals as prescribed would most likely be deemed to have applied harsh, unfair and unjust treatment; not to mention forcing themselves to treat people differently under the same policy. You would be unlikely to dismiss a person for taking a codeine tablet on three occasions, but you would almost certainly have a different approach with someone exceeding your alcohol limit on three occasions.
drug test policy mistakes

Unfortunately, we are yet to review a Company’s drug & alcohol testing program and find that it is 100% correct;

  • the policy or procedure may be incorrectly written (terminology etc)
  • the procedures adopted might breach privacy legislation or Australian Standard requirements, or
  • the Organisation may have engaged a testing organisation that is not correctly accredited to do this work

In the last point above even if the policy is correct and states compliance with the Australian Standards – engaging an organisation that is not properly NATA accredited is in breach of the Standard and therefore also in breach of the Policy. A major difficulty for all drug testing programs is that the “Requesting Authority” (the organisation hosting the testing) is responsible for ensuring the compliance of the drug and alcohol policy and program.

If the policy or procedure doesn’t require compliance with the Australian Standard; a legal challenge might involve the organisation having to explain why it has elected not to follow best practice methodology (Australian Standards in Australia) or to explain what alternate best practice methodology it is basing it’s program under (for example an International Standard).

If you would like an independent opinion regarding ways in which you can improve the compliance of your program please contact us