The question of saliva vs urine drug testing is a common one when writing and implementing a workplace drug and alcohol policy.

We specialise in onsite drug testing in Perth and around Western Australia and this would be the most debated question by all of our clients when starting a drug and alcohol testing program.

Today, urine drug testing remains the preferred method of onsite testing in Australia.  It is most compliant to the current Australian Standards with more accurate testing kits, and a lower risk of false positive results. It also has more legal precedence. However, if your workplace is open to industrial relations pressure or requires convenient testing then saliva testing may be a consideration.

The preferences of the employer and its relevant stakeholders, including those being tested,  should always be considered when it comes to introducing workplace drug testing.


The employer’s general ‘duty of care’ obligations for safety and health under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (the OSH Act) and the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 (the MSI Act) include:

  • providing a workplace and safe system of work so workers are not exposed to hazards
  • providing workers with information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to work in a safe manner; and
  • consulting and cooperating with workers and safety and health representatives, where they exist, in matters related to safety and health at work.

Where there may be a risk of injury or harm to people resulting from the use of alcohol and/or other drugs, it must be assessed and measures taken to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of any injury or harm occurring.

Below are a few points to contribute to your team discussions around saliva vs oral drug testing for your workplace.

Oral or saliva drug testing saliva vs urine drug testing

Saliva drug testing allows an employer to test in a shorter detection time frame to provide a better indication of potential impairment. Saliva drug testing will only detect more recent consumption of drugs – as a guide, less than 24 hours for most drugs and less than 4 hours for cannabis use.

Saliva testing is seen as less intrusive than urine testing – an oral swab is used to wipe against the inside of the cheek so generally no privacy issues. It should be noted that the pH of saliva can be more easily altered or diluted by the individual which can reduce the amount of drug present in the oral fluid  by a significant amount. Close supervision is just as important for both methods to ensure accuracy.

In our experience approximately 20% of industries use saliva or oral drug testing, with the rest preferring urine testing due to it’s legal precedence. 

Urine drug testing

Urine drug testing is used by 80% of Australian organisations. Results are seen as more accurate and it is usually more cost effective. Significantly, it also has more legal precedence (ie: results from urine testing are more likely to stand up in court).

Unlike saliva, there is a longer detection window for drug use in urine testing.

saliva vs urine drug testing

Urine drug testing also has the advantage of detecting benzodiazepines.  This is a benefit over current onsite oral fluid testing kits which have a lower chance of detecting benzodiazepines as their levels in oral fluid are extremely low. Those being tested however, may have a concern over perceived intrusion of privacy.

saliva vs urine drug testing

Like with oral fluid, there is also the possibility of adulteration with urine. Random testing can eliminate problems around adulteration of urine samples. Any dilution in urine can also be checked for during the testing process.

So, saliva vs urine drug testing?

In the common debate of saliva vs urine drug testing it is important to consider the nature of your workforce and the legal outcomes you require. Urine testing has in the past provided more legally “accepted” results. Saliva testing is more palatable (excuse the pun!) by the people being tested.

Saliva testing measures the presence of a drug, not how much has been consumed or how intoxicated a person is. Urine testing usually measures the presence of metabolites of drug use.

The wording that gives you the most flexibility in your procedures, with clearly defined outcomes, will ultimately provide you with more choice and strength of AOD policy.

If you have any more questions or would like more information on our onsite drug testing services in Perth please get in touch.