Privacy & Confidentiality – Four Important Points

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Here is some food for thought…                                                          

  1. Correct handling and storage of alcohol and other drug testing records can avoid major issues. You may wish to consider storing such records separate from employees’ personnel files to avoid any records being inadvertently viewed. Access to these types of records should be restricted to key management personnel who “need to know”.
  2. Alcohol and other drug testing should be conducted in a private room where passers-by cannot hear what is being discussed. Ensure unauthorised persons cannot view test record documentation during testing.
  3. Medication can be managed in your workplace without staff being forced to disclose full details of the type of medications they use. Procedures to ensure this is handled properly can be provided by an experienced drug and alcohol testing program consultant.
  4. Persons conducting testing processes should be fully trained in, and understand, the potential dangers of breaches of employee privacy and confidentiality.


Case Study

ACME Pty Ltd appointed “Sally” from the Human Resources department as an “in house” drug & alcohol tester.  She received generic training as per the Australian Quality Training Framework to qualify as a collector under the relevant Australian Standard.  This training “ticked a box”, however in practice, Sally felt uncomfortable with requesting details of staff use of medications, alcohol and drugs. Sally proceeded to fulfil her duties as requested of her.  A problem soon occurred.   Sally had not received adequate training regarding privacy & confidentiality in the context of drug and alcohol testing.

During testing one morning she concluded her test with “Bill” from the accounts department. As Bill left the testing room, “John” from operations took his place ready for his test. Whilst sitting opposite Sally, John was able to read the test documentation Sally was working on which related to Bill and his use of alcohol in the previous 24 hours.

Sally should have protected the test documentation from prying eyes. A serious breach of privacy and confidentiality had occurred!


About the Author:

Cameron Stuart has specialised in saliva based workplace drug & alcohol testing programs since 2003. He has personally conducted many thousands of tests and implemented drug & alcohol testing programs into hundreds of workplaces. He consults to workplaces throughout Australia to assist with their drug testing programs.

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