Is drug testing a safety service or health service?

Many people mix up whether drug testing is a safety or health service.

I do not think it is a health service as;

  • Drug Testing Officers (Collectors) are not trained in Anatomy, Physiology, Pathophysiology etc. and are not even required to have the health knowledge necessary to perform first aid. What I mean is, it is not necessary to even have a first aid certificate to perform testing.

  • We are not providing an opinion about your fitness to work or carry out the activity. We are not even declaring whether or not you are positive for a drug. This is done by pathologists in a laboratory in the event of a not-negative drug test result.

  • Unless you work at a rehabilitation centre, you will not have any influence over the provision of a health service to a person based on their drug test result.

I think it is more a safety/regulatory service as;

  • We are trying to ensure a worker can perform their job safely. In the same way checking a window washers harness is vital to ensuring their safety. In the same way a truck driver performing a pre-start check is vital for their work.

  • We are assessing compliance with company protocols and/or legislation as appropriate.

Why does the difference matter?

It is important to ensure that the distinction is made. A person providing a health service has the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to provide information on how drugs may impair your ability to work. The majority of drug testing officers, do not have relevant skills, knowledge and experience. It is important that only a registered pathologist provides health advice regarding your drug/alcohol results.

Who can (usually) administer a drug test?

  • A police officer (generally only if you are a police officer or are/have been operating a motor vehicle on a public road).

  • A security guard or WHS representative (usually at mines).

  • Your internal safety officer (dependent on policy at your workplace).

  • A custodial officer (prison guard) if you are visiting or held at a prison.

  • A workplace investigator (from a government agency).

  • Any person authorised by your employer.

How can I find out if my drug testing officer is appropriately trained?

Some may carry a copy of their certificate, though this is certainly not required. If doubts exist you may request your employer explain why that person is authorised to conduct the test. Things to look at may include;

  • Is the drug testing officer using calibrated equipment? All breath testing devices must be calibrated and the testing officer must produce a calibration certificate on demand.

  • Are they using a Chain of Custody form? They should never be scribbling down notes on a random piece of paper. It must be a professional form completed in duplicate or triplicate and you must be given a copy.

  • Did they sight a photographic ID? In order to ensure compliance, a photographic ID displaying your name (and preferably date of birth/address) must be sighted. The ID should be government issued (Drivers Licence, ASIC/MSIC, Defence ID, Passport etc.)

Sadly, there is no real regulation on drug testing. So, if you think a person is providing a drug testing service without proper skill/training/care you may wish to report them to your state/territory workplace safety watchdog or, if you suspect fraudulent practices, office of fair trading.

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