We often get asked whether workers being drug tested should disclose any medications that they are taking. Many workers who have been tested by other agencies report that they have had to disclose.
There are privacy issues with this, such as:
(1) Most medications are not relevant to the test result;
(2) Most medications do not cause any impairment;
(3) Many medications are taken for conditions that are not relevant to the work or the worker's safety.
At DASA we do not routinely ask what medications are taken – only if the onsite test is non-negative and going to the laboratory for confirmation. The laboratory toxicologist can then make a judgement as to whether the result is consistent or not with the medication declared.
Other privacy issues related to disclosure of medications include:
Some medications are taken for conditions that are very private. For example, mental illness, sexually transmitted disease, HIV etc
Having to disclose medications is upsetting for some people and can make the testing process unnecessarily stressful for them
Knowing what medications are taken can often suggest the diagnosis, especially for mental illnesses
Even for a non-negative test that is sent to the laboratory for confirmation, knowing what medications are taken will not change the result of the laboratory testing. It can though help sometimes with the interpretation of the result – for example if a medication has cross-reacted causing a spurious result.
In the Fair Work Australia Decision (Endeavour Energy v Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia; Australian Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union; and the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia, 2012), Senior Deputy President Hamberger concluded:
“Employees should not have to disclose personal information about prescription medication unless and until they have returned a confirmed positive test.”
As such we consider that routinely asking for medication details is not appropriate and should not be done. We are happy to answer any questions about this or other topics - call us on 02 8001 2535.