What is a Collection Service Provider or Third Party Administrator?

Sep 29, 2016

In Canada there is currently no government department which oversees the Drug and Alcohol Testing industry, but in the United States this falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s, Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy & Compliance. This means that most Canadian D&A Testing was initially set up following the American model. This made total sense historically as most of the D&A Testing required in the beginning in Canada was for truckers who were driving across the border and therefore required to conform to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s requirements. Initially there was no way to know if Canadian D&A companies were following any protocol, or whether they were even trained properly to do Drug and Alcohol Testing. This all changed with the creation of DATAC, the Drug and Alcohol Testing Association of Canada, which has worked hard with leaders in the industry to establish testing standards for the Canadian drug and alcohol testing industry.


Service Providers

In the Drug and Alcohol Testing structure the companies (big or small) which provide drug testing services to other businesses or individuals are called Third Party Administrators in the US and Collection Service Providers in Canada. These companies can be run in different ways. A small TPA or CSP could consist of just one person who liaises with other businesses/individuals to obtain customers who require drug and alcohol testing services. If the CSP business is just run by one person then they would not only be doing the administrative/marketing work for their company, but also doing the actual collections, and dealing with confirmation testing as required. This would mean that they would also be a Certified Specimen Collector (DOT compliant if they were testing those who needed to be covered in the US as well).


The other type of CSP or TPA is the large company, often those which are also involved in other forms of safety services or health testing services and have added drug and alcohol testing to their list of services. These companies will usually offer their own on-site collection services, with certified collectors, perhaps having different locations of their offices to choose from. The large CSP companies often also use Independent Collectors. Independent collectors are individuals (who may already work within the safety services industry) who will do collections (and only the collections) on behalf of the CSP.


As a Collection Service Provider It is very important that you are well trained and aware of your responsibilities and the possible variables and outcomes involved in your role within the Drug and Alcohol Testing industry. When you are working as a CSP you could be doing drug and alcohol testing for many different reasons and for many different types of companies. The reasons for needing a drug and alcohol test generally fall under one of the following:

  • Pre-employment testing
  • Pre-access /Site Access
  • Post-incident
  • Reasonable suspicion
  • Return to work
  • Random testing  


The types of companies that could ask for tests range from mining and oilfield companies to child protective services and everything in between. When dealing with a large company you, as the CSP, would be dealing with their Designated Employer Representative, who would be the company liaison for setting up the drug and alcohol testing services. As a CSP (or collector) you could be taken to court to confirm that all protocols were followed, and as long as you have done everything as per your DATAC training, your collection will be one hundred percent legally defensible. It is of course important to recognize that you will need to be insured as a CSP or collector so that you do not end up taking on personal liability should an error occur.

Medical Review of Tests

When acting as a CSP you must also have access to a Medical Review Officer (MRO) and a lab for your confirmation testing. Confirmation testing must be done when you have a collection which garners a non-negative result. A non-negative result is one that comes from a point-of-care test (POCT) which has indicated a non-negative indicator on the cup, cassette, breath test or saliva test. Once there is a non-negative result most companies will require a confirmation test to confirm whether the result was actually positive. A confirmation test will involve collecting a urine sample and sending this sample to a laboratory for a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis wherein complex mixtures of chemicals may be separated, identified and quantified. The confirmation test also requires the input of a licensed MRO, who will speak to the donor and gain information regarding what medications the donor may be taking, and confirm that there is no appropriate reason (such as the donor being on a medication containing the drug in question) for the drug to show up in the donor’s sample. Should there be a valid reason for the drug in question appearing in the donor’s sample (because they are on a prescribed medication) the confirmation test would yield a negative result.


Now that you know the basics of the industry you can start your own training and you’re on your way to running your own business!