Forestry: Drug Bust

By: Patrick Cox

Forestry: Drug Bust Deb and Craig Gurr, owners of the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency Northland Forestry: Drug Bust

Forestry and drugs: the two go hand-in-hand. There are two businesses that make a living from within this environment, one legal and one illegal. The logging contractor on many occasions will come across a plot growing in his block that has to be clear-felled. It annoys the hell out of me when these drug growers have skulked out there in the dead of night and vandalised the logging contractor's equipment, spray-bombing machines with "Stay off my plot" or similar.

Forestry: Drug Bust
Drug busted

How the hell these idiots expect a clear-fell contractor to work around a plot growing in the middle of a clear-fell operation is beyond me. Maybe they smoke too much of their own product?

On one occasion a thinning contractor was advised by phone to stay out of a certain area of the block he was working. He told the caller to get stuffed, only to arrive at work a couple of days later to find his skidder smoldering in the middle of the landing.

The guys that grow and smoke dope probably work for legitimate contractors and get caught in their own trap when the drug bus comes to visit. The drug issue is so counter-productive for loggers that it must be very frustrating. Continued education and training is the key to beating this problem.

I recall talking to a forestry company in Hawke's Bay some years ago. They had a silviculture training camp with 100 trainees attending – over 75 percent failed the drug test. How do you put a work force together with those figures?

It would appear that we only drug test the lower-end of the worker scale, but as we all know dope is smoked by a large percentage of New Zealanders across the board. It would be of some concern if those in high places enjoyed the odd toke on the weekend, but on Monday made decisions affecting those at the tree face.

How long does dope stay in your system and make you a danger to your work mates? Or is the guy suffering from a hangover actually more dangerous to work alongside?

One forestry worker said to me the other day, "If we sacked all the stoners, we would be left with all the booze-heads". No matter what drug it is, it has no place in any work environment in this country.

The fight against drugs in the work place has been taken up by forest owners and managers. They have employed the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency, with 20 branches nationwide, to conduct random drug testing of all forestry crews, as well as themselves as managers of the country's forest plantations.

Craig and Deb Gurr have purchased the Northern franchise of the NZDDA and have the right personalities to perform this very sensitive job.

Every month the forest managers supply the Gurrs with a list of contractors operating in their area. They feed those details into the computer which randomly selects names of those due to be tested. Some crew names could come up again quite quickly. No doubt workers in this situation complain about being tested recently, but too bad – it's a great system. Otherwise there could be those workers who think, 'Cool, I won't be tested for another month: I'll have a joint tonight'.

The Gurrs take a specially-equipped drug bus around all the logging crews from the Dome Valley to Cape Reinga. The logging crews are always very busy and the Gurrs try to conduct their business with the minimum of fuss. The standard test is that each person in the crew will supply a urine sample, which checks for six different types of drugs.

From the given sample, a dip test is taken. If the sample tests positive, the worker is immediately asked to leave the job. There's no free ride home for this individual, and they have to find their own way off the job.

The Gurrs are also allowed to test any other person who might visit the logging crews. This might include truck drivers, sales people or technicians – in other words, any other person that has been granted an access permit by the forest manager to enter their forest.

In my opinion, this is absolute total protection for the forest industry, but the Government has to play a part in this by banning the importation of all adulteration masking agents that are available to cheat drug testing procedures. It's a difficult thing to do, but not impossible. Maybe an instant fine might be a good idea and the cheater gets banned from working in the forestry industry for five years.

Cannabis and opiates accounted for the majority of drugs detected in the workplace, In Northland in 2011, 1855 people were tested. Eight percent came back with positive results. Seventy-two percent of that eight percent scored positive for marijuana and nine percent for methamphetamines. In 2012, 2678 people were tested with similar results as in 2011. All positive tests are sent for independent verification to Canterbury Health Laboratories and a full result is back within 24 to 72 hours.

So how long do drugs actually stay in the system? This varies from one person to the next and depends on the dose too. But here are some guidelines for each of NZDDA's urine tests: Amphetamines 2-6 days, Benzodiazepines 2-14 days, Cannabis 2-30 days, Cocaine 2-5 days, Ecstasy 2-6 days, Methadone 2-8 days, Methamphetamine 2-6 days, Opiates 2-5 days.

Your body weight, any other medication and lots of environmental factors can also affect retention times, so the above list is only a guide. Cannabis is a drug that can build up in the body and stay detectable for longer, but this extended time frame only applies to regular or heavy users.

I have been told that 95 percent of all banknotes in the United Kingdom are contaminated with cocaine. Apart from the health risks associated with taking drugs, much like an alcohol hangover, casual users can feel 'off colour' for days afterwards, don't perform well at work and are more likely to have a workplace accident.

So there you have it: if you're a manager without a drug screening policy, then you should put one in place. Workplace drug and alcohol testing is a very contentious issue, so you need to tread carefully. To have all your crew behind you is a bonus.

All drug and alcohol screening must be done on the basis of health, safety and the welfare of your mates. The New Zealand Drug Detection Agency and other similar providers are a must for all forestry contractors to continue to make this industry a safer place to work.

Oh, and watch out when you eat that poppy seed bagel for lunch, as it will show up in your urine test. That shows just how efficient the testing can be.

[Well done Patrick. General Safety will be proud – Ed]

For more information and providers of services, Google 'Drug detection'

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