Random drug and alcohol testing in PF Olsen’s operations has just entered its 7th year.

The results show a positive improvement as culture builds in contract work crews, in particular among the workers themselves. We are hearing more and more that established work groups do not want to be upset by drug takers entering their ranks and they want us (the forest manager) to hold the line, testing more and for a wider range of drugs.

In the Central North Island the testing programme is a collective, encompassing 97 entities made up of 92 contractor groups and 5 PF Olsen employee groups – it is a matter of one in all in, and everyone in a safety sensitive role is subject to random testing including the CEO and senior managers.

Recently the collective’s steering committee organised and ran a drug and alcohol survey. Our existing programme was designed around an original survey taken in 2009, however much has changed since then including the worker’s views as noted above. The steering committee that administers the testing programme decided it was time to hear again from the wider group on some reasonably important (and somewhat controversial) topics. These are:

  • Testing for Synthetic Cannabis, and

  • Sharing[1] test results more widely – with the view to preventing those that produce positive tests from ‘crew jumping’ – a term that describes a person’s ability to remain anonymous and transfer to another crew following a positive test and dismissal.

The Central North Island section of the survey results, which are an interim result, indicated that forestry workers use ‘other drugs’ that go undetected. When asked to name those drugs – synthetic cannabis rated highest with 45% of respondents considering the use of Synthetic Cannabis was still a problem and one-third said that it ‘was the same as always’ i.e. the same now as it was before the government made it illegal to sell such products. The greater majority of workers would like to see those users taken out of our forests. This provides a good basis for the Collective to apply testing procedures that focus on eliminating Synthetic Cannabis.

At our Safe Start Up events in January, we advised we would commence testing for Synthetic Cannabis in early 2016 and around 15% of those selected for normal testing would be required to undergo a further screen for synthetic cannabis. 61% of respondents selected the method whereby all of the crews or entities selected for random testing in any given month go back into a draw and one or two crews from that group would be chosen for further Synthetic Cannabis screen.

Of interest are the early results on information sharing – it seems that the results are level pegged with a third of the respondents not wanting it under any circumstances, a third wanting it whether it is legal or not, and another third unable to decide because they consider the ‘law’ is unclear.

What is clear is that we will need the law clarified before heading down the information-sharing road. Finally, there is strong support (72%) in favour of a testing process known as Hair follicle testing. This is a type of pre-employment testing which gives a 3 month indication of a persons drug taking history.

The CNI Collective steering committee is looking at means to support contractors to use this worthwhile tool in their pre-employment procedure.

 [1] Current Collective agreements do not permit information sharing. The 2015 revised Code of Practice (Plantation Forestry Code of Practice – Eliminating Drugs & Alcohol from the Workplace’) suggests that information sharing is a legal option as long as those subject to testing provide consent.