Hair Follicle Testing
Drug Use in the Workplace
Employees have a duty to ensure they are fit for work; this means that they take reasonable care of their health by ensuring they are fit and well enough to perform their duties, do not attend the workplace if they are under the influence of legal or illegal drugs that may affect their performance and place themselves and others in danger, and do not use illicit drugs while at work. However, under the Work Health & Safety Act 2011 (NSW), ultimate responsibility for ensuring safety in the workplace resides with the employer.
Some occupations are subject to legislation and regulations that prohibit workers from being under the influence of any drugs whatsoever – including medications prescribed by a doctor or available over the counter from a pharmacy. As such, many organisations have specific policies in place that require regular or periodic testing of employees for drug use, especially in occupations where a worker risks serious injury to themselves or others in the course of carrying out their duties.
How can Hayden Health & Safety help your business meet its occupational drug use monitoring requirements?
Hayden Health & Safety offer a fast and effective, non-disruptive and discrete testing solution to ensure your employees are fit for duty and don’t pose a risk to themselves and others.
The hair follicle testing offered by Hayden Health & Safety offers employers the ability to screen individuals for signs of long-term illicit drug use or misuse of prescription medications, as part of pre-employment testing procedures or random drug testing procedures, in line with your organisation’s drug and alcohol policy.
Our custom-made mobile testing vehicle can visit your site anywhere in NSW, or you can arrange appointments for testing at our office, conveniently located in Cardiff NSW.
What is a hair follicle test?
A hair follicle test – also known as a hair follicle drug test or hair drug test – is a drug screening test that is used to monitor illicit drug use and misuse of prescription medications. The test analyses a small hair sample for signs of drug use over the previous 90 days, making it the most effective means of screening individuals for long term drug use (as opposed to urine or saliva drug tests, which can only detect drug use in the preceding few days).
A hair follicle test is generally used to test for:
- Amphetamines – including methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy) and MDEA (eve)
- PCP (phencyclidine, or phenylcyclohexyl piperidine, also known as angel dust)
- Opiates – including codeine, oxycodone, morphine and 6-acetylmorphine (one of three active metabolites of heroin)
How is a hair follicle test performed?
A hair follicle test involves using scissors to remove around 100-120 strands of hair from the crown of the head, close to the scalp. Our testing technician will collect these hairs from different spots on and around the crown, so as not to create a bald spot. If the individual has little or no hair on their head, our testing technician may be able to collect hair for testing from other areas of the body.
Hayden Health & Safety’s hair follicle collection and testing procedures adhere to a very specific set of standards, to ensure the accuracy of results. Once the required amount of hair has been collected it will be securely packaged and sent for testing at our National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) accredited laboratories. This accreditation is proof that our testing procedures meet strict quality guidelines, so you can be assured that all test results are provided with certainty.
Our laboratory technicians wash the hair and test it to ensure it is free of environmental contaminants that could affect test results. Technicians then perform two tests on the hair sample – ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), which is a rapid screening method; and GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry), to provide confirmation of the ELISA test results and rule out false positive results.
Understanding hair follicle testing results
Hair follicle drug tests can return one of three results:
- Negative: The initial ELISA rapid screening process is sufficient to determine a negative result, generally within 48 hours of collection of the sample. GC-MS may not be required if a negative result is returned on an ELISA test.
- Positive: A non-negative result on the ELISA test requires completion of GC-MS testing, to confirm a positive result and identify the specific drug/s used.
- Inconclusive: An “inconclusive” test result is uncommon, but possible if collection and testing procedures are compromised in some way. Repeat testing using a new hair follicle sample may be required if an individual’s test returns an “inconclusive” result.
It should be noted that some prescription and over the counter medications can give false-positive results in hair follicle tests, however GC-MS confirmation testing performed by our laboratory should be able to confirm whether the non-negative result is a consequence of legitimate therapeutic use of a declared medication. Thus, individuals being tested need to provide our testing technicians with full and complete details of all medications they are currently taking.
Should the results of a hair follicle test indicate legitimate use of a declared medication, but concerns exist regarding the possible side effects of this medication and the employee’s fitness for work, employers are encouraged to seek a Fitness for Work Determination from a suitably qualified medical professional.
If the organisation wishes to include hair follicle testing as part of their Drug and Alcohol Policy, the Fitness for Work Policy should include provisions for determining the employee’s ability to safely complete their duties, or the employer’s need to implement restrictions, in the event that confirmatory testing returns a positive result for a legal, declared medication.
Hayden Health & Safety Drug Testing Services
Hayden Health & Safety offer hair follicle testing as part of a variety of workplace drug testing services, including:
- Pre-employment testing: testing individuals prior to being employed by your company
- Return-to-work testing: testing an employee who has previously returned a non-negative test result and is required to return a negative test result before being allowed to return to the work site or resume to normal duties
- Random testing: testing a randomly selected group of employees in your company or at your work site
- Blanket testing: testing all employees in your company or at your work site at one time
- Near Miss or Post-incident/accident testing: testing one or more employee/s after an incident (near miss) or accident
- Suspicion or For-cause testing: testing one or more employee/s when there is cause for concern, or suspicions are raised, regarding their performance or behaviour
- Scheduled D&A testing: testing in line with your workplace’s specific drug and alcohol use monitoring policy
In addition to the testing services we provide, Hayden Health & Safety are happy to answer any questions you might have about hair follicle drug testing processes in your workplace, and to provide information and advice on how the testing services we offer can benefit your business.