Drug-test bill prefers saliva over urine jar
A Carpenters Union spokesman likes the idea for on-site safety
Saliva could replace urine as a means of testing for drugs in the construction industry if a measure moving through the Legislature is approved.
Building and union representatives at a Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee hearing yesterday strongly supported the Senate Bill 1636 SD1 "to ensure workplace safety."
State Health Department, Diagnostic Laboratory Services and Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii representatives cited many concerns about saliva drug testing.
Judiciary and Labor Chairman Clayton Hee, (D, Kahuku-Laie-Kaaawa-Kaneohe), said he expects to advance the measure with some amendments suggested by the Health Department.
He said he has "very strong feelings when it comes to drug abuse and drug abuse in the workplace." But he said "the least-invasive and least-humiliating" testing method should be available.
He said he has arranged to bring a machine here on a trial basis that measures people's eyes to detect drug use.
Other states are using the machine in the courts and it could be used in Hawaii's Judiciary, especially for Circuit Judge Steve Alm's Project HOPE, Hee said.
Alm started Hawaii's Opportunity for Probation with Enforcement last year to try to prevent convicted criminals on probation from using drugs and going back to prison.
Ronald Taketa, testifying for 7,500 members of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, Local 745, and 220 contractors statewide, said on-site saliva drug testing "would be a tremendous leap forward in fighting substance abuse and related injury in Hawaii's construction industry."
He said Hawaii Carpenters was the first trade union in Hawaii to have a drug testing policy for members. "There is nothing we value more than safety on a union project," he said, adding it affects the well-being of members and the cost and profitability of building projects.
Gerard Sakamoto, S & M Sakamoto Inc. president, said urinalysis testing "is expensive for employers, stressful for workers and can easily be manipulated by those who want to 'beat the test.'
"We need a better and more affordable alternative to ensure workplace safety," he said. On-site or "instant" oral fluid drug screens are widely used on the West Coast and "have become a cost-effective detection and deterrence tool to keep job sites safe," he said.
Laurence Lau, state Health Department deputy director, said saliva tests have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, they might not work for marijuana use, presenting a "false sense of security," he said.
Among suggested changes, the agency asked that only FDA- or Health Department-approved test kits be used for drug screening and that a urine or blood specimen be collected within two hours after a positive saliva test and sent to a state-licensed laboratory for confirmation.
Carl Linden of Diagnostic Laboratory Services and Clifford Wong of Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii cited many scientific and legal issues with saliva-testing devices.
Linden urged that the bill be held until there are federal standards or scientific agreement on the efficacy of saliva tests.