Use of Alcohol Based Sanitiser

Our Ref: HSR/1/1
Head Office Circular: NP/104/20 (Rev)
7th May 2020
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


Further to Head Office Circular NP/104/20 issued earlier today, I have been provided with new information about flammability from several sources. Members should be aware of possible risk when near a flame or other heat source. Everyone should wash their hands with soap and water if possible. If only alcohol based hand sanitisers are available, make sure all liquid has evaporated before touching any surfaces.

I have received a number of queries in relation to alcohol in hand sanitiser/gel and possible implications for drug and alcohol testing. My representatives approached our largest employer of members, Network Rail’s drug and alcohol testing provider for a response from the toxicologist and their response is below:

There are some studies that have shown that low levels of the alcohol metabolite ethyl glucuronide (EtG) can be detectable in the urine of individuals who have consistently used alcohol-containing hand gels. This should not be confused with the testing that is conducted in the workplace, where the test looks for the presence of ethanol itself in the urine above a set cut-off to determine if the result is positive. Studies have not shown any significant levels of ethanol in blood samples collected from individuals who have repeatedly used hand gels and the amount of ethanol in the urine is directly determined by the amount in the blood. This indicates that the repeated use of alcohol hand gels would not result in a positive workplace urine alcohol test.

Given this information, members should please note that use of hand sanitiser will not be a defence in a failed alcohol test.

Please make the contents of this Circular available to all appropriate members.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary