An update on changes to saliva drug testing Australian Standards AS/NZ 4760:2019
2 years on and revision, public comment and re-revision has seen the new oral fluid Australian Standard become reality.
A transition period applies while new devices compliant with the new Standard are produced, tested and verified by NATA accredited laboratories. Confirmation testing laboratories will also need to modify their processes and procedures and undergo new NATA accreditation to be able to meet the testing and reporting criteria of the Standard.
The standards were updated March 11, 2019, and contain several changes for how on-site testing for drugs of abuse is tested, collected, transported and analysed in a laboratory.
The key changes
THC (marijuana/canabis): New cut-off levels
The cut-off level for THC is now lower. Previously, anything over 25ng/mL would be considered a positive or non-negative result. This would then need to be referred to a laboratory for confirmation testing. With the latest update, the cut-off level for on-site oral drug testing for THC has been lowered to 15ng/mL.
Additionally, the cut-off level for laboratory testing has also been lowered to 5ng/mL from the previous 10ng/mL. This means that any test detected over 5ng/mL will be considered positive or non-negative.
This change is likely to increase the number of on-site non-negatives and confirmed laboratory positives. Passive exposure to cannabis is unlikely to be an influence on results, however this issue is likely to be be raised.
Oxycodone: added as a new mandatory test
Oxycodone is a prescription-only, strong pain relief drug. Previously, oxycodone was not required to be tested in workplaces. Under the updated standards, oxycodone must now be tested on all samples.
Under the new Standard oxycodone will have its own panel on the on-site testing device (set at 40ng/mL) with confirmation in the laboratory required to be 20ng/mL. The advantage of this single panel approach is the on-site screen will determine specifically this drug group, which means the employee may be managed immediately with an ‘exception to stand down’ arrangements.
As with the original 2006 Standard, benzodiazepines will not be specifically included as an on-site detected drug class. Rather, benzodiazepines may be optionally detected and quantitated depending upon your workplace policy. Some industry sectors are legislated to require benzodiazepines detection and analysis.
Your Company Drug and Alcohol policy
All companies should check the language in their workplace drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures.
All workplace policies will need to be updated to AS/NZS 4760:2019, including the new on-site and laboratory confirmation drug cut off levels. We anticipate the transition period to the new Standard will take 6-12 months. It is pertinent to initiate discussions with all relevant key stakeholders relevant to your drug and alcohol program, including unions, to alert them of the change. This will allow time for new policies and procedures to be drafted ready for implementation once the transition period draws to a close.