Drugs & Alcohol Testing In The Workplace

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Workplace drug testing and alcohol screenings are important tools in any employers effort to keep their staff productive and their workplace safe.

Misusing drugs and alcohol is thought to cause up to 40% of industrial accidents each year and costs the UK up to £36bn overall. Working to protect your workforce from these risks is both your ethical and your legal obligation.

One effective way to help minimise the misuse of drugs and alcohol among your staff is to use randomised testing carried about by an external, impartial, occupational health team.

What is Drug and Alcohol Testing?

There are a number of different types of tests that can be used to detect whether drugs or alcohol are present in somebody’s system. This includes oral fluid testing (otherwise known as saliva drug testing), hair drug tests and breath alcohol testing.

If you’re looking for drug testing in Derby, we at David Barber Occupational Health are able to offer two different types of workplace testing: an instant test, or a laboratory test. We offer onsite sample collection for both types of tests, though participants may also visit our occupational health office in Derby to take an alcohol or drugs test if more convenient.

Both types of tests ensure that our clients receive accurate and quick results, tailored to their requirements.

Instant drug and alcohol testing:

Our instant drug and alcohol tests can be carried out on site. We use the highest sensitivity tests possible that give immediate, accurate results.

For alcohol testing in the workplace, we use standard Home Office-approved breathalysers. These give us a standalone measure of blood alcohol content to identify recent or excessive alcohol consumption.  

To carry out workplace drug tests we use urine testing kits which also give instant results. These drug test kits can check for 13 different illicit drugs, and we can work with employers to identify which prescription drugs or other drugs to screen for.

We also use urine tests as they have an effective drug detection window of 5 days before sample collection. Urine samples offer a more convenient and less invasive sample type than a finger prick test or venous blood sample.

Both of these instant tests return either a negative or non-negative result. If the result is non-negative then the test sample will be sent on to our United Kingdom Accredited Service (UKAS) lab for further analysis. Use of an accredited laboratory means that the report they provide is legally defensible and court-admissible if needs be.

Standalone lab analysis:

As well as being used for confirmation testing, standalone lab analysis can be used instead of an instant result if you request it.

The timescales for standalone testing will obviously be longer and they will come at an additional cost. Please contact our team if you would like help deciding whether standalone laboratory analysis is the right test type for you.

For Cause Testing

As well as randomised testing, we are able to undertake with-cause testing for both drug and alcohol.

With-cause testing can be requested if you have a legitimate suspicion about an employee and can prove that their drug and alcohol misuse would cause a serious health and safety risk to themselves or others. It is also possible to use for cause testing if there has already been an accident and it requires further investigation

This type of alcohol screening and drug tests can be more legally sensitive and can not be done without due cause. If you think it is necessary for one of your employees, you can contact our expert team for more advice.

Why do you need Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace?

The prevalence of drugs and alcohol in your workplace can have a major impact on the productivity of your employees, hugely impacting business performance. 

Over a 1 year period, more than 20% of employees in the United Kingdom turned up to work coming down from the effects of drugs, and over 45% came to work either with a hangover or from the effects of alcohol (Global Drug Survey, 2014). This affects worker focus, productivity and their ability to work safely.

Drug and alcohol use in the workplace is especially a concern when employees operate heavy machinery and vehicles as part of their day-to-day role. 

Drug and Alcohol Testing Laws in the Workplace

There are a range of laws that surround drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. They outline the appropriate situations where employees can be tested and how to keep it fair.

The laws that govern workplace drug testing also state that it must either be completely random or limited only to employees that need testing. You cannot single out particular employees for testing unless the nature of their jobs justifies doing so.

We work to make sure that both our team and our clients adhere to the correct legislation in order to protect employers and employees.

Who needs Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace?

Randomised drugs and alcohol testing should be used as a tool to maintain a safe workplace.

It should not be used as a way of controlling or manipulating a workforce, but as an important way to protect your staff when at work.

It can be an integral part of risk management in most workplaces. Particularly in Safety-Critical work environments, where any impairment to your workforce could have catastrophic consequences.

Do I need Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace?

Many workplaces can benefit from having an effective substance abuse policy, supported by randomised alcohol and drugs testing. Limiting the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace will help ensure your staff remain productive, but it can also be used to support workers by helping to identify risks and keep the workplace safe.


The Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 states that an employer has a duty of care to protect their staff from any and all unnecessary risk. Alcohol and drug testing can play a key part in that process.

Staff who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not just be less productive than those who limit their current regular alcohol consumption or abstain from drugs. Their ability to do their job safely will also be impaired. In other words, they may even pose a direct risk to those around them.

If your company has staff working in safety-critical environments then it is highly recommended that you conduct regular workplace drug testing to ensure that every member of your team (and anyone else they may work near) are kept safe while in potentially hazardous situations.

Workplace testing only forms a small part of your responsibility to protect your employees. If you need help with any other aspect of your company’s occupational health provision, you can take a look at our services page to see other areas we can support you with.


Your employer has a legal obligation to protect you while in the workplace, and workplace drug testing and alcohol screening can play a large part in that.

If you work with plant machinery, at height, or in any other safety-critical environment it is important that your colleagues can be relied upon to work safely. Drug use or regular alcohol consumption on site will seriously affect their ability to think clearly and work safely. Randomised drug and alcohol testing can help ensure that everyone in the workplace is fully capable to carry out their role at all times.

Randomised testing can even help you monitor your own drinking habits. The distinction between heavy versus moderate alcohol intake can often blur, but randomised testing can highlight the truth to people who believe they are occasional drinkers.

Can an Employee Refuse a Drug and Alcohol Test?

An employee can not refuse workplace drug testing if they have signed a contract that clearly states that they are required to take part in random drug and alcohol testing.

This is one of the reasons it is important to have a clear workplace drug and alcohol policy.

In this situation, any employee who refuses to take an alcohol or drug test can be subject to disciplinary action, as long as there are adequate grounds for testing.

The test is usually counted as a positive if they refuse consent.

What Happens if an Employee Fails their Drug and Alcohol Test?

If one of your employees fails their instant workplace drug test, we will often then use a standalone lab analysis to screen results.

What happens to the employee next is down to what is stated in your company’s drug and alcohol policy. Make sure your employees are fully aware of your policy towards drug and alcohol abuse and ensure they know the consequences if they fail to pass a test.

If it is prohibited by your workplace policy and the resulting impairment causes a health and safety risk, then disciplinary action is usually expected. Dismissal may even be justified in certain situations.

Where can I get Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace?

If you need drug and alcohol testing in Derby, our team are available to provide testing across the East Midlands. We will manage sample collection, as well as oversee the test itself and follow up with any necessary lab analysis.

We are closely situated to the new East Midland Gateway on the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire borders, and we’re always on-hand to travel, capable of performing workplace alcohol and drug testing in our office or on-site.

Preventing Drug And Alcohol Misuse

As well as offering drug testing in the workplace in Derby, we at David Barber Occupational Health are able to support you in writing a comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol policy to help your employees understand what is considered unacceptable.

Our resources page has an example policy that you can download as a starting point, but you can also get in touch with our team and we can talk through your needs and requirements to write you a bespoke drug and alcohol policy that is suited to your business.

Online Management System

One of the many benefits we offer at David Barber Occupational Health is the use of our online management system. You will be able to access personalised reports from our services and access drug and alcohol test results for your employees. The online system we use ensures all of your data is secured, only accessible to you via a unique login and has ISO accredited security standards. Find out more about our client system by emailing us.

Occupational Health Derby

David is trained to UKAS-standard for drug and alcohol testing at work, and all our technicians have had training in-house to carry out testing with expertise. Our clients include Nitto Denko, Hinckley Point Power Station and Dacrylate Paints, to name but a few.

We help you ensure you remain fully compliant with all governmental laws surrounding drug testing in the workplace, whilst getting you the results you require. You can contact us to discuss your requirements and we’ll help you ensure that your workplace remains drug and alcohol-free and compliant with the law as well as your own drug and alcohol workplace policy.

If you want to keep your workforce safe, effective and productive, contact DBOCC to book Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace in Derby


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Workplace drug tests work in a similar way to a pregnancy test. The drug testing sample sticks identify traces of the substance being tested for, providing a line in the window of the test kit.

You will then receive either a negative or non-negative drug test result. The samples are then sent to the lab for further analysis to see if the levels are above the minimum levels under EU legislation.

This depends on the type of drug test you opt for. Our instant workplace drug test is carried out on site and we can provide you with results that same day. Standalone lab analysis, on the other hand, can take around 24 – 48 hours depending on when the testing is carried out. For example, if carried out on a Friday, the results will be Tuesday. If carried out on a Monday, the first samples will be available Tuesday with levels on Wednesday or Thursday.

Typically a workplace drug test kit is used to test for 13 different illicit drugs (different industries may differ using different amounts of drugs to be tested). Get in touch with us to find out what substances we can test for and what we recommend for your business.

The amount of time a drug will remain in your system depends on the type of drug consumed, the dose as well as the individual’s characteristics such as their sex, age and their weight. Many drugs will remain in your system for up to 4 days, but this can be longer.

Alcohol testing at work is carried out using a police-standard breathalyser, providing instant and accurate results.

The employment contracts signed by your employees should outline the drug and alcohol policy you have in place and state if you require your staff to partake in randomised testing. If any employee refuses a drug test even after they have given consent then they can expect disciplinary action to be taken against them if there are good grounds for testing. The test is usually counted as a positive if they refuse consent.

If one of your employees fails their instant workplace drug test, we will often then use a standalone lab analysis for confirmation of results. What happens to the employee next is down to what is stated in your drug and alcohol policy. Make sure your employees are fully aware of your policy towards drug and alcohol abuse and ensure they know the consequences if they fail to pass.

To get a quote for a drug and alcohol test for your employees/workforce, please get in contact with our friendly team who can discuss prices with you.

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