Drug testing in the line of duty

Do our emergency workers – such as the police and ambulance officers – face drug and alcohol testing? Credit sv1ambo https://www.flickr.com/photos/50415738@N04/8076212343/

They’re the people who help to keep us safe and come to our rescue when we’re in trouble. Given the vital job police officers, ambulance officers, paramedics and other emergency services do, it’s important that when they’re on the job they are in a safe condition. Free from alcohol and drugs and ready to perform their roles.

So, do police officers, ambulance officers, paramedics, fire fighters and other emergency workers face drug testing on the job?

Do emergency workers undergo workplace drug testing?

The general answer is yes. While these emergency workers are often employed by the states and territories and therefore face different rules, getting drug tested is often a routine part of their job.

For example:

  • In New South Wales, police officers can be subject to drug and alcohol testing at any time, around the clock. This testing includes various forms such as random tests while on duty, targeted tests, mandatory tests, recall-to-duty tests and special follow-up tests.
  • Similarly, in Western Australia, police face random, mandatory and targeted testing for alcohol and drugs.
  • Ambulance Victoria employees undergo routine testing for alcohol, illicit drugs and medications stored on ambulances, including fentanyl and morphine.
  • From our research, all firefighters face drug and alcohol testing as part of pre-employment testing. Many also undertake routine testing on the job.
  • Australian Defence Force personnel also face targeted and random drug and alcohol testing. In general, there is a zero tolerance policy on illicit drugs. This was highlighted in the media recently, when six members of a Sydney-based army unit tested positive to illicit drugs. They are now facing possible expulsion from the Australian Defence Force.

It’s also worth pointing out that all our emergency workers’ employers have policies and procedures in place to manage drugs and alcohol. This is key for any company before embarking on any workplace drug testing.

Why the need for drug testing?

While public trust, transparency and accountability may have some role to play in the extensive use of drug testing amongst emergency workers, the main reason is safety. Drug and alcohol misuse by police officers, ambulance officers, fire fighters and other emergency workers poses a safety and health risk to themselves, their colleagues and the wider public.

These professionals operate in high-stress environments where split-second decisions can mean the difference between life and death. Impairment by substances can significantly reduce their cognitive and motor skills, compromising their ability to respond effectively to emergencies and putting lives at risk.

What about our politicians

All of which may make you wonder, do the politicians who help to form the rules that our emergency workers work under, face drug and alcohol testing? They may not be emergency workers, drive at high speeds or have a safety-focused role, but they do make significant decisions that affect the lives of Australians.

As we’ve highlighted before in our posts, some politicians do face drug and alcohol testing. This is mostly at the local government level.

Recently, the current Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, hosed down suggestions that federal politicians should undergo drug and alcohol testing. He said that politicians should always act responsibly and that politicians who don’t can be made accountable every three years at the ballot box.


Do our emergency workers – such as the police and ambulance officers – face drug and alcohol testing? Credit sv1ambo https://www.flickr.com/photos/50415738@N04/8076212343/

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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