Standardisation for oral fluid drug testing

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 12, 2019

The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA) welcomes the new standards for oral fluid testing processes and technologies. TDDA has long believed that oral fluid testing technology and processes required reviewing and to become a joint Australian and New Zealand standard.

The AS/NZS 4760:2019 (CH-039 Detection of Drugs in Oral Fluids) oral fluid testing standard by Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand dictates consistency around testing methodology, the quality of devices required, and how labs manage test samples.

“The new standardisation delivers value to employees and employers alike. It provides a framework and guidelines to ensure that oral fluid testing is carried out in a way that will deliver accurate, reliable results,” says Kirk Hardy, CEO, TDDA.

TDDA is on track to be the first to achieve cross-Tasman accreditation and provide independent and reliable externally audited oral fluid drug testing collection service to International Standards Organisation standards. TDDA Omega laboratories is also seeking accreditation to AS/NZS 4760: 2019 for the provision of laboratory confirmation services.

“If a drug tester follows the standard, they‘ll use a process that ensures the testing carried out meets the requirements of the AS/NZS 4760:2019, giving it more scientific rigour to withstand legal challenges. We‘re also in the process of verifying a device to meet the criteria of the new standard,” says Hardy.

Even with standardisation improvements with collection, Hardy warns that oral fluid testing isn‘t a catch-all testing product, and not all workplace testers are accredited or will follow the standard.

“Businesses that care about compliance and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 need to make sure they‘re using an independent, accredited, certified tester that follows the new standard. But companies also need to understand it‘s not a one-size-fits-all test,” says Hardy.

TDDA recommends utilising a range of different testing methods, such as a mixture of oral fluid, urine, and hair testing. All tests have their advantages and disadvantages. Businesses should utilise testing methods to fit the needs of their workplace, and should consider all forms of testing based on what the testing outcomes desired.

Hardy says TDDA has been conducting oral fluid testing for companies for nearly two decades.

“The most common questions I hear from employers about oral testing are ‘will this type of test lead to a personal grievance‘, ‘will it comply with health and safety‘, and ‘will it stand up in court‘. Any testing is better than none, but managers should have a discussion with their provider if they‘re thinking about changing testing methodologies,” says Hardy.

TDDA recommends testing trial periods of up to a year to determine a testing technology matrix that includes oral fluid testing, and measuring metrics such as:

  •        Detection rate increases and decreases
  •        Accident rate increases or decreases
  •        Employee wellness
  •        Employee attendance and attrition rates
  •        Subjective surveying of employees and their opinions.

In developing the standard, Rod Dale, group technical manager TDDA, and Armin Kiani, chief toxicologist TDDA Omega Laboratories, were part of the New Zealand and Australian standards committee that updated AS/NZS 4760-2006 to the new 2019 version. The pair worked with other committee members to create a standard that has been approved by Standards New Zealand and Standards Australia as a published standard.