An ambulance service has introduced random drug testing in a bid to protect public safety.

Paramedics and other ambulance staff working in the Australian state of Victoria can now be asked to provide samples of breath, urine, blood or hair to be analysed in drug and alcohol tests. And to encourage honesty, staff who admit to being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol in the workplace will be offered help with tackling substance misuse instead of facing disciplinary action.

But the new policy adopted by Ambulance Victoria has attracted some criticism.

Steve McGhie, secretary of the Ambulance Employees Association, told the Herald Sun: “Paramedics would probably think it’s a bit of a slur to think they might come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to be tested when, really, what they live for is to look after their patients and to treat their patients well.”

The policy also urged colleagues to report anyone at work who they believe might have consumed alcohol or drugs.

Policy aims to tackle substance misuse

Mark Rogers, the ambulance service’s acting chief executive, said: “Substance misuse exists throughout society and, like any workplace, we are not immune. We must, however, ensure the risks posed by alcohol and other drug use do not impact public safety or the health, safety and wellbeing of ­employees.”

Drug testing is not uncommon in the emergency services where safety is critical. AlphaBiolabs offers workplace drug and alcohol testing to a variety of industry sectors which take a zero tolerance approach to substance misuse.

Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace can include random testing in which staff will be arbitrarily selected to provide a sample to be analysed. However, there are also other forms of testing including for cause tests, which are carried out when there are suspicions a member of staff may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or an incident has taken place which requires investigation.

AlphaBiolabs also offers screening as part of the recruitment process so companies can check the drug and alcohol history of new starters before they are formally employed by the organisation.

 

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