In Australia, alcohol use is a daily part of many people’s lives. Although the use of illicit drugs is not as common, with only a small proportion of people regularly using these products, the number of people that have used these drugs at least once is reported to be increasing. The effects of both alcohol and illicit drug use during and outside of work hours can have a significant negative impact on workplace health, safety and productivity unless a decent policy and good quality mining breathalyzer products are used.
Workplace policies and testing regimes using high quality mining breathalyser devices may help change the norms and culture around illicit drug and alcohol use, and may also assist is changing family and community attitudes. Workplace prevention programs with such mine spec breathalyser products may complement existing public health programs to help address substance use before people become dependent and need more specialised intensive interventions.
The empirical evidence on the public health consequences of alcohol and drug abuse is relatively well established. However, despite the wealth of opinion and advice on this subject, the evidence for workplace consequences is sparse. For example, despite the intuitive link, there is little clear evidence on the links between drug use and absenteeism, low productivity, poor performance and accidents at work. Although there is very good evidence to support the efficacy of road side random breath testing using a good quality mining breathalyzer or mining drug test device, there is little robust evidence on the deterrent effects of drug testing for either illicit drugs or alcohol in the workplace.
This relative lack of clear evidence on the effectiveness of these programs makes developing sound policy more difficult. However, there is evidence that suggests that good general management practices are the most effective method for achieving enhanced safety and productivity, and lower absenteeism and turnover rates. As such, a comprehensive workplace policy on illicit drug and alcohol use that integrates a mine spec breathalyzer as part of general management policies could help in addressing problems that arise because of alcohol and illicit drug use in the workplace.
The implementation of workplace drug testing is a sensitive and complex issue. While there is good evidence of the reliability of alcohol breath testing using a mining breathalyser and the association between blood-alcohol levels and subsequent performance impairment, this is not as well established for many illicit drugs. For these substances the main concern is that these tests only provide an indication of recent use. Further, the evidence of the association between the drug levels derived from the samples (blood, urine etc) and subsequent performance impairment is relatively sparse.
The implications of consumption patterns, the timing of the consumption and the effects of withdrawal also need to be considered in any decision to implement an alcohol and illicit drug testing regime using a mining breathalyzer or mining drug test. The advantages of implementing testing regimes for the general working population could be quite minimal. To be effective, a clearly defined and agreed rationale for testing is required, accompanied by a comprehensive policy, preferably developed in consultation with workplace representatives.