Previous Article Next Article What should an occupational health nurse do when asked to deal with drug andalcohol testing as part of a pre-employment health assessment in the absence ofa company policy? Readers provide the answerQ Last month we asked whatreaders would do when faced with the following problem: I am a newly appointednurse in a transport-related company. In my first induction week with my linemanager, I was advised that the pre-employment health assessment process includesa urine drug and alcohol test. While I feel competent to perform the chain ofcustody procedures, I am concerned that the employer does not have a drug andalcohol policy. I have discussed this with my manager who has told me that theprevious nurse did not question the absence of a policy and that I shouldperform the chain of custody procedure in accordance with the personneldepartment’s request. What is my course of action? A I am very much enjoying the newfeature on professional dilemmas and would like to offer an opinion on thedilemma in the March edition. While I believe it is extremely important to have both a drugs and alcoholpolicy in place, in these circumstances it is not essential to have it alreadyin place. As long as the nurse is competent to carry out the chain of custodyprocedure, and has the written consent of the patient that is all that isrequired. A positive result would make the person unfit to be employed. The issue isentirely different if the company were to decide to do random, or with-causetesting on its employees, both of which are still quite controversial. I would suggest that she/he advises the company to implement a drugs andalcohol policy as soon as possible. Liz Mitchell (Occupational Health Adviser working in industry) Winning answer The clear message should be that drug testing of a workforce should not beundertaken without first implementing a company drug and alcohol policy that clearlydefines the purpose of the screening and its consequences. An employer may havea number of reasons for wishing to introduce drug testing in the workplacewhich may include public safety (as in the transport industry), employee safety(reduction in workplace accidents), public relations and corporate image andthe achievement of a drug-free workplace. Whatever the employer’s objectives, it should be mindful of itsresponsibilities and statutory duties towards employees, the public andemployees of other organisations who may be working on its premises. Ofparticular relevance would be the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, theManagement of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Misuse of DrugsAct 1971 and the Transport and Works Act 1992. Employers must bear in mind the consequences of the above legislation whenconsidering the introduction of a drug and alcohol policy and I think it isfair to comment that it would be unacceptable to expect employees to agree todrug and alcohol testing where no policy is in place. It is my understandingthat where a company is planning to introduce workplace drug testing, contractsof employment must be changed and an appropriate period of notice given. Good planning and the initiation of a clear and concise policy, are thefirst steps to successfully implementing a workplace drug testing programme.The most important stage in the introduction of the proposed policy iscommunication to the workforce, who should understand what is expected of themand the results of non-compliance. The policy should be explicit in itsobjectives, state the expected code of conduct and the date from which it willbe enforced. The reasons for the introduction of workplace drug testing should be clearlystated, what drugs are likely to be detected, when employees will be tested andwhat will happen in the event of a positive test result also need to beprecisely defined. It is also important that employees are aware of the appealsprocedure. In addition, the policy should state the organisation’s intentionsshould an employee voluntarily seek help for a drug or alcohol problem. While to my knowledge there are no legal restrictions on pre-employment drugtesting, it should be remembered that an employee may refuse to be tested. Itis therefore imperative when testing existing employees that a policy is inplace to give clear guidance on further action. The advice given by the personnel department for the nurse to continue withthe procedure is worrying. What would happen if the test were performed andfound to be positive? It is likely that the employee would seek advice from thenurse on an appeals procedure and again without a policy this is unclear. It is important that when drug and alcohol testing is being carried out we,as OH professionals ensure it is performed to an ethical standard with duerespect for human rights. Lynsey Scott RGN BSc(Hons) Dip HE Cert Hlth Prom Occupational Health Practitioner MTLMedical Services February dilemma Q Our February dilemma page featureda question about whether an occupational health nurse should discloseinformation from a health questionnaire to a manager who is concerned that anew employee may have a pre-existing back problem that she has not disclosed. A The straight answer to yourquestion is No! The employee is entitled to the assurance that the answersprovided to any medical questions are recognised as being confidential tooccupational health and it is not appropriate to disclose them to any otherpersons. In view of the fact that the employee has an established pattern ofill-health-related to back pain after only five months in the job, the managershould be contacted. My action would be to suggest that the manager review thestaff member’s sickness record and with her consent refer her for a routineappointment with the occupational health physician. It will be theresponsibility of occupational health to advise on whether the employee issuffering from work-related ill-health and to recommend an appropriate courseof treatment. It is possible that the employee knowingly withheld the fact that she had anexisting health problem for fear of not getting the job. If it transpires thatthis is preventing her from working to her present job description, managementmay decide that, as a consequence of being untruthful about her fitness forwork, she should be liable to dismissal. Sheila Hobbs Occupational Health Nurse Occupational Health Department, Llandough Hospital Magic of CounsellingIn Occupational Health October we featured a review of some videos entitledThe Magic of Counselling. Unfortunately we had some difficulty finding thesuppliers contact details. Here they are: The Quiet Associates, 35 AudleyGrove, Bath, BA1 3BT, tel 01225 463656, email: [email protected] Apologies for thedelay.This month’s dilemmaSenior managers within my organisation, (a local government department) arebecoming concerned by the amounts being awarded in settlement forstress-related claims, and the evidence that stress related long-term abscencewithin the company is on the increase. As the occupational health adviser, I have been asked to assess the issue onbehalf of the company and devise a strategy for the company to adopt. Inparticullar the company have asked me to devise a mental health risk assessmenttool. I am finding it difficult to write this “tool”. Can anyone helpme before I too go down with stress!What is my course of action?Fax 020 8769 7892 or e-mail [email protected] month’s dilemma does not have a model answer – we are asking readers tosupply the answer themselves. We will publish a selection next month, the bestreply receives a bottle of champagne. This month’s champagne goes to LynseyScott for her suggestions on how to deal with the problem on drugs testingpolicy. Champagne is also on its way to the reader who supplied the real-lifeprofessional dilemma featured above. Pleasesend your replies in to reach us by 12 April. Is a drugs and alcohol policy really necessary?On 1 Apr 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.