Getting hot under the collar over drug and alcohol testing

Should politicians, the police and other rule makers and enforcers face drug and alcohol testing? Credit Mike Stevens

If there was a single most popular comment on Integrity Sampling’s social media posts when we do articles on drug and alcohol testing, it would be that politicians and the police should undergo the same testing. Fair enough, you might think, but is it really? Should rule makers and enforcers be made to undergo testing?

Drug and alcohol testing is about safety in Australia

Before we investigate this question further, it’s important to take a closer look at why drug and alcohol testing is carried out in Australia.

In this country, drug and alcohol testing is predominantly a safety tool. Workplaces carry out testing as part of a drug and alcohol management plan, which in turn forms part of their efforts to ensure employees can do their job safely.

Testing is therefore used in industries where safety is a priority. For example, transportation, aviation, mining, agriculture, manufacturing and construction. In these industries, having someone who is under the influence is obviously extremely risky.

Compare this with the drug and alcohol testing model in the United States. Historically in the US, people from a much wider scope of industries are tested. They not only test blue collar workers who are operating machinery and undertaking other safety-focused roles, they also test white collar workers. In addition, there’s a lot of pre-employment testing completed, in an effort to keep those with drug and alcohol issues from joining the workplace. In summary, it’s not just about safety.

Interestingly, there appears to be a softening of this model in the United States.

For example, just last year retail giant Amazon revised its US workplace drug testing policy on cannabis. They excluded the drug from its comprehensive pre-employment workplace drug testing program for positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation (e.g. truck drivers and forklift operators). Drug testing on the job is still carried out, but not pre-employment testing for many positions.

Should rule makers and rule enforcers be tested?

Few would argue that rule enforcers, such as our police, should undergo drug and alcohol testing. Because of the job they do, being under the influence while on the job would put themselves and others at risk. From a safety standpoint, testing makes sense.

It is wise to point out that police officers around Australia do undergo drug and alcohol testing. While the states and territories have slightly different rules, any police officer in Australia can and will be tested for drugs and alcohol.

So, how about politicians and others who make the rules? Should they be tested for drugs and alcohol?

From a safety standpoint, the answer is perhaps no. Politicians and other rule makers are no different to a whole range of white collar and office workers who would not normally get tested on the job. They’re not out driving heavy vehicles, flying planes, operating machinery, working underground or doing other activities that are inherently risky.

Of course, you could argue that politicians and the like should be sober and free from drugs given the types of decisions they make. From a safety perspective, however, the need for testing is less warranted.

Again, we should point out that some politicians do undergo drug and alcohol testing. In particular, many councils are introducing testing for councillors and other while collar workers, in addition to their blue collar workers.

Should politicians, the police and other rule makers and enforcers face drug and alcohol testing? It is an interesting – as well as potentially hot – debate to have. Perhaps best done with a beer or other alcoholic beverage. But only if you’re not going to drive or go to work!


Should politicians, the police and other rule makers and enforcers face drug and alcohol testing? Credit Mike Stevens

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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