Some of the statements made in the article A Matter of substance in the
November issue of Occupational Health, gave a dangerously misleading view of
how laboratories handle drug and alcohol samples.
It has taken a great deal of time and effort to reassure staff that their
company procedures are fair. But in one fell swoop, this article lays waste to
all the hard work by stating:
1 ‘The laboratory process … may show up not only banned substances, but also
whether an employee is pregnant or has any genetic disposition to disease’.
Any reputable laboratory operating to UKAS-accredited standards will only
look for substances agreed upon by the sample donor. They are not allowed to
test for anything else under any circumstances.
2 ‘… nobody can be tested against their will, and consent must always be
Again, UKAS-accredited laboratories demand the sample donor gives consent
for the test to be carried out. Implying this may not occur is a serious
indication of ‘rogue’ suppliers doing tests without consent.
3. ‘… testing alone will not resolve workplace drug and alcohol problems,
and should not be a substitute for a comprehensive policy’.
The substance abuse policy is the basis for minimising substance misuse in
It is likely that incorrect inferences will be drawn from it that will
damage accredited companies, policy makers and laboratory suppliers who ensure
that all legislation, privacy and respect is maintained for sample donors.
Alison Payne FIBMS DMS
Managing director, JMJ Laboratories
The Editor replies:
This article was written by legal experts to provide general employment law
advice on the broad issue of drug and alcohol use in the workplace. It was not
intended to be a detailed analysis on how drug and/or alcohol samples are
handled by laboratories, or the merits of testing organisations.
I’m sure we are all agreed on the importance of using reputable laboratories
that only check for substances permitted by the donor, with procedures in place
that are part of a comprehensive policy.