The Guardian 26 January, 2005

Management drug hypocrisy
at BHP-Billiton

The following report has been sent to The Guardian by a worker concerned at the double standard being applied in his workplace when it comes to the drug testing of workers and managers:

On the morning of 20th December 2004, at a large open-cut coalmine in the Upper Hunter owned and operated by the worlds biggest diversified miner BHP-BILLITON, it was business as usual. The workers start filing into the deployment centre to have their early morning chat with each other and find out from the boss where they are going to work for the shift. On the morning in question it had been decided to have a random drug and alcohol test. This procedure is common practice throughout the mining industry.

Three names were drawn from a legitimate draw and one of the names happened to be a mine manager who was not on-site at 6.30am when the draw occurred. It was reported he was onsite at approximately 7.30am and was informed he was required to provide samples for drug and alcohol testing as required by the company. The two other people complied with the rule and were tested.

It has been reported that the mine manager in question was aware he was required at the first-aid centre for testing. Apparently, he had been to the room on several occasions but there were other people waiting to be tested. I cannot understand why a person in his position didn't explain to the testing officer that he was busy and needed to jump the queue and get the testing over and done with. To this day, the person in question has not been tested and has been quoted as saying "I was too busy" at the time he was needed for testing.

Random drug and alcohol testing is commonplace industry-wide and, in my workplace, does not exclude departmental managers. Once the person to be tested is informed of the situation i.e. he/she is needed for testing the person is not to resume work until a negative result is given from THAT test.[see extract below] This is clearly not evident in this case.

The miners' union (the CFMEU) has taken action in the form of a letter sent to the company's health coordinator (whose job it is to oversee the drug and alcohol policy), the OH&S committee and the general manager. This letter was to be tabled at the last monthly meeting held with the company on Wednesday last and was discussed at that meeting. There are no records of that meeting available yet but monthly shift meetings are due so, as soon as they are completed, I will inform The Guardian.

I might add that there were some concerned looks on some senior staff members at work as a result of this major breach of policy by a departmental manager. "Lead by example", I say.

  • From BHP-Billiton Drug and Alcohol Policy, document MAC-STE-POL-002 page 7:

    7.8.1 Drug testing will be performed on site by the use of the applicable Standards Australia compliant testing equipment requiring a urine sample and the procedure applied will be in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4308 and the manufacturers instructions. The following guidelines will apply [point four appears below]:

  • The person selected for testing, once they are informed that they are to be tested, will not be permitted to commence work until a negative result has been obtained from that test.

    Back to index page