Central Leader : January 13th 2012
www.centralleader.co.nz 7 CENTRAL LEADER, JANUARY 13, 2012 NEWS Workers put to the test By PIP BOURKE Tricky business, above: National programme manager Wayne Duley goes over paperwork before drug testing an employee chosen at random. Photos: PIP BOURKE Illegal substances, right: A drug identification kit. More illegal gear, right: A second drug identification kit. On the ball, above: NZ Drug Detecting Agency chief executive Kirk Hardy says they have to be aware of all the new drugs coming on the market. SAMPLES of hair can trace drugs taken as far back as six months ago. And failing that body hair can do the same, as can fingernail scrapings. New Zealand Drug Detecting Agency chief execu- tive Kirk Hardy says people will resort to desperate measures to avoid drug testing. We're talking thousands of dollars,'' he says. In one instance one of our technicians was offered two grand cash there and then to make the drug test go away.'' This is precisely why drug testing officials need to be of the highest integrity, he says. The agency specialises in workplace drug screening. Mr Hardy is a former Auckland police drug squad member who left the force seven years ago to start the business alongside his brother. He says most of his staff have similar backgrounds in either police or military. Mr Hardy's aim in starting the country's first workplace drug testing programme was to help people on a different level. I wanted to help people before they were criminally involved.'' He says the organisation has an overall goal of preventing workplace acc- idents. If we can stop a fatality or a workplace accident from happening then we've done our job.'' If an employee's test is positive, the agency reports to the employer and can provide further help to get them away from substance abuse. They cannot report to the police. We're not here to say that's wrong you shouldn't be doing that,'' Mr Hardy says. We're here to say you shouldn't be at work while you're at risk -- you're a haz- ard in the workplace.'' Mr Hardy says the most significant move he has seen over the years is the develop- ment of quality drug testing guidelines. The drug testing industry could have gone downhill very fast with cowboy practices setting up all over the show,'' he says. But it's been great to see New Zealand enforcing strict guidelines and rules as to how this is done. I think that's testament to how we do things as well.'' Standards in New Zealand mean that urinary screening is the only accepted form of screening and it must be done by an authorised drug detec- tion agency. But Mr Hardy says New Zealand does have a long way to go to catch up to overseas standards. Workplace testing is still not as common as it is in Australia for example.'' The agency tests for both illicit and designer drugs like synthetic cannabis in all industries from retail through to civil engineering, forestry and mining. Mr Hardy says the New Zealand Drug Detecting Agency was the first company to start testing for synthetic cannabis in Australasia when concerns hit the news last year. We send a certain number of negative tests away to test for designer drugs,'' he says. At one time we had about a 22 percent positive rate.'' The agency also works alongside schools providing drug education courses where the proceeds go to charity. They also carry out drug tests on students where necessary. Testing kids is one of the hardest jobs in this industry,'' Mr Hardy says. It's very emotional. When you're talking about drugs, trust really goes out the win- dow on the child's behalf because they start to lie to cover up their drug use.'' Also common are drug tests carried out for the courts in child custody cases. We can do hair samples which can go back three to six months,'' Mr Hardy says. When you're talking about kids you're talking high stakes. You can't let them grow up in an environment where there are drugs at stake,'' he says. Mr Hardy says the preva- lence of new drugs in New Zealand is a wake-up call. Drugs are forever chang- ing. We need to be constantly on the ball with what's coming in next. We have to know how to develop a test to test for it,'' he says.
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