Drug testing methods not all created equal

Workers at a Vulcan Steel plant have given saliva drug testing its stamp of approval. If you manage a workplace, you should too.

What does it matter which drug testing method your workplace chooses to use? After all, if you haven’t taken drugs recently, it doesn’t matter which method they use, does it? Actually, the drug testing method can make a difference, as the Manufacturing and Construction Workers Union at Vulcan Steel in New Zealand well know.

Firstly, a bit of background. When it comes to workplace drug testing there are two main methods used – urine and oral or saliva sampling. Others drug testing methods – such as hair and blood can be used to detect drugs – but for several reasons they aren’t widely used in workplace drug testing in Australia.

In New Zealand, according to the stuff website, Vulcan Steel argued that under the provisions of the workers’ collective agreement, they could choose the drug testing method. The Manufacturing and Construction Workers Union countered this by arguing that the workers should be able to choose. The company preferred the urine sampling method while the workers wanted oral testing.

Why the argument?

As stated in stuff, urine testing detects “drugs across a longer window of time since drug use, according to evidence presented by experts to the authority. Oral testing was more useful when knowledge of “recent use” was more important than knowledge of “any use”, the experts said.”

It is therefore understandable why the workers wanted to use saliva drug testing. With the oral method being a better indicator of recent use, it’s likely less workers would test positive compared with using urine testing.

Integrity Sampling would argue, however, that saliva drug testing is also better for the company. You see, the goal of drug testing is not to get positive drug testing results; it’s to detect people who are under the influence of drugs and may therefore be unsafe to work. These people can then be removed to a safe area, so that they don’t put themselves and others at risk.

In other words, drug testing is a safety tool rather than a discipline tool.

By the way, the authority in charge of such matters in New Zealand found in favour of the Vulcan Steel workers, which meant they were allowed to choose the drug testing method. No guesses for which they picked!

Saliva drug testing benefits

So, determining recent drug use is one of the benefits of saliva drug testing. But it’s not the only one:

  • Getting results using saliva drug testing is quick. Integrity Sampling can complete a drug test in a workplace in around five minutes.
  • Saliva drug testing is accurate. In fact, the Drager Drug Test 5000 used by Integrity Sampling for all its workplace testing has a 99% accuracy rate.
  • Saliva drug testing is very portable and can be done virtually anywhere. Compare this to urine testing, which requires restrooms or private facilities.
  • Saliva drug testing is unobtrusive. The person being tested simply rubs a testing implement around the inside of the mouth. Urine sampling can be awkward and uncomfortable for some people and needs to be supervised closely to ensure efficacy.


Workers at a Vulcan Steel plant have given saliva drug testing its stamp of approval. If you manage a workplace, you should too.

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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