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The importance of implementing a company drug & alcohol policy

Supplier: Labour Health
21 March, 2014

Drugs and alcohol impacting on the workplace is an all too regular occurrence, though many companies are yet to realise the significance of having an appropriate drug and alcohol policy and screening procedure as part of their employee relations management.

Companies that do have a drug and alcohol policy often experience difficulty in managing and enforcing it.

So in this week's blog post, we've taken a look at some of the ways you can safely and effectively implement and enforce a company drug and alcohol policy, so that you can ensure you and your employees can have a safe and secure workplace in which to conduct business.

Start by drafting a drug and alcohol policy

if you do not already have one, start by drafting a drug and alcohol policy which clearly outlines your company's policies, procedures, and consequences for anyone involved with consumption of illicit substances or alcohol while employed by you.

How hard a line you take in regard to your policy is really a matter for senior management, taking into account the workplace culture you are maintaining or building and or industrial circumstances.

The policy can either be agreed upon solely by you and your management team, or can be done with the assistance of a professional workplace health and safety advisor. As a provider of onsite drug and alcohol testing services, Labourhealth are regularly contacted for advice on structure and implementation of drug and alcohol policies and are happy to assist.

State your drug and alcohol policy on your 'Conditions of Employment' documents

Once you have a drug and alcohol policy in place, it should be part of "conditions of employment" for any new employee. You should have on your application forms that employment with your company is subject to a pre-employment medical including a drug and alcohol test.

Your Letter of Appointment for new employees should also include your drug and alcohol policy, which should outline the potential for random testing of employees or 'cause testing' i.e. behaviour which may lead to a supervisor or manager being concerned that an employee may be intoxicated or under the influence or a site accident/incident where the same concern exists.

Ensure the drug and alcohol policy is also made known to existing employees

Where you are implementing a drug and alcohol policy for the first time, for existing employees you should hand them a copy of the companies new drug and alcohol policy, have them sign a log or copy acknowledging they have received a copy of the policy as a change of employment conditions and the log/copy placed in their file. If you have an Enterprise Agreement you may need to negotiate the changes within that agreement.

Giving notice to employees for random testing

If random testing is part of your drug and alcohol policy then no notice is required for your employees and you simply need to book with your workplace health and safety organisation advising of numbers required and preferred date and time.

Oral testing vs. urine testing – which is the better option?

When organising random drug testing, you'll also need to consider whether you require testing by way of oral swabs or urine sample.  Oral swabs are less invasive and will detect recent use of the major drug groups, while urine samples will detect lifestyle use and additional drug groups.

However, urine testing can be the more accurate option of the two. As the drug level is cleared rapidly from the blood, it is equally rapidly cleared from the oral fluids.

This is not the case for urine drug levels, where the breakdown process and excretion can reflect the presence of drug well past any time when it may be affecting the patient.  Here is a rough guide to the amount of time it takes for certain drugs to become undetectable in both saliva and urine:


  • Saliva 10min-72 hrs
  • Urine 3-5 days


  • Saliva 10min-24 hrs
  • Urine 2-3 days


  • Saliva 0-14 hrs
  • Urine 3-14 days


  • Saliva 10min-72 hrs
  • Urine 3-5 days


  • Saliva 1hr-36 hrs
  • Urine 1-3 days

What happens if any of my employee's tests positive for drug or alcohol use?

There are grounds for termination or suspension of employees who test positive, though you should check on recent appeals with Fair Work Australia and or seek independent advice.