Health and safety expert criticises data protection code

A
former member of the Health and Safety Commission has criticised the Data
Protection Commissioner’s proposals on drug testing at work.

The
proposals outlined in the commissioner’s draft code of practice code recommend
employers should only use drug testing when they are concerned about health and
safety issues.

Although
this section of the code, which could come into force in mid-April, is not
legally binding, tribunals would take into account whether employers had abided
by it.

Occupational
health consultant and former member of the Health and Safety Commission,
Cynthia Atwell, told Personnel Today there were circumstances where employers
were justified in testing for drugs.

She
explained, “If the employee caused an accident where someone was killed or
injured, the employer would be liable under the Health and Safety at Work act
because managers have a duty of care to oversee the health and safety of
others.

“There
are certain jobs where the wrong push of a button or a wrong sum could cost
companies thousands of pounds – their employers would be justified in testing
them.”

Julie
Weston, director of workforce development at Bournewood Community and Mental
Health NHS Trust said she had no plans to introduce blood tests to screen for drugs
in employees.

She
said: “We screen all of our workers with interviews and to introduce drug
testing across the NHS would be extremely expensive.”

www.dataprotection.gov.uk

By
Richard Staines

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