CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
OratectPlus, made by Branan Medical Corp., detects alcohol and six types of drugs in test subjects. Bob Stevens of Emerald Bay Consulting moved a testing swab in his mouth during a demonstration of a saliva testing device at the Pacific Club yesterday. The device renders results within three to five minutes.
Workers gear up for saliva drug tests
Bob Stevens swabbed his cheeks and around his tongue and waited confidently for test results of the saliva on a hand-held device.
Within minutes the verdict was in: no indication of alcohol or any of six drugs -- marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamine, methamphetamine, PCP ("angel dust") or benzodiazepines, a type of tranquilizer. Also, no blank spots indicating inconclusive results, which would require a follow-up urine test.
The Emerald Bay Consulting representative demonstrated the saliva drug test at a breakfast yesterday sponsored by the Pacific Resource Partnership at the Pacific Club to kick off training seminars for oral fluid drug screening in the construction industry.
The saliva tests stand to revolutionize the drug-screening process on a number of fronts:
» Results are available within three to five minutes, compared with four hours for urine tests.
» The saliva screen costs about $18, compared with $200 for a urine test.
» There is no way to fudge the results as with urine. Stevens noted that 44 million substitutes for urine are sold annually on the Internet and can be substituted within minutes for a person's urine in a bathroom.
"It could be theirs or their sister Mary's," he said. "With this test you actually observe the specimen being done."
The Hawaii Carpenters Union, island contractors and their partnership, formed in 1987 to promote union construction, joined to back passage of a law in the last Legislature to substitute saliva for urine in testing for drugs in the building industry.
Kyle Chock, executive director of the partnership, said the oral fluid test is similar to a home pregnancy test.
"It is very user-friendly," he said, adding that it will result in "incredible" savings of time and money for the industry.
Loss of productivity and employee stress are reduced because workers no longer have to leave the job and go to a laboratory for a urine test unless the oral screening is positive, he said.
Training workshops began yesterday at the Hawaii Carpenters Union, 1311 Houghtailing St., and will continue there Monday. Public workshops were scheduled today at 7:30, 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. at the Hawaii Employers Council, 2681 Waiwai Loop.
Stevens said the Carpenters Union has been trying to clean up drugs in the workplace for more than 20 years, reducing positive readings to 4 percent of its 7,500 members from 30 percent.
"It's pretty incredible," he said.
Still, Chock said, the goal is a 100 percent drug-free construction industry.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona commended the industry for "tremendous leadership" in supporting the new testing program to create a safe working environment.
Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Laie-Kaaawa-Kaneohe) said the Food and Drug Administration and clinical laboratories were opposed to the oral fluid test, and the state Department of Health had reservations. He credited Mike Kido with the Pacific Resource Partnership and former city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro for pulling everything together and shepherding the bill through the Legislature.
James Hardway of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said no other state has such a process, emphasizing that the saliva test is "pre-screening."
"It's not drug screening, so you can't take adverse action against an employee," he said.
If it appears positive, the worker must report to a licensed facility within four hours for a urine test, he said, suggesting employers should have someone drive the person to the lab.