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Drug Testing in the Workplace

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Feb 2019 | comments*Discuss
Drug Testing Workplace Drug Testing Work

Any company would want to keep the use of drugs outside of the workplace alongside any repercussions of an employee’s misuse outside of the workplace. In addition to causing health problems, drug use can increase the risk of accidents.

However, although drug testing is perfectly legal, it is not enforced by law and any company who may wish to implement a drug testing policy at work must state that in any employment contract or company handbook and an employee would have to consent to undergoing a drugs test should they be asked to do so. Of course, in certain occupations and in some companies, failure to give consent can naturally result in a potential job applicant being turned down for a position.

Introducing a Drug Testing Policy

Normally, a company who implements a drug testing policy would do so in instances where it has grounds to test for drugs because of its occupational health and safety policy. This would usually be set out in an employment contract or company handbook. The policy should state:

  • What it is trying to achieve
  • How the tests will be conducted
  • What sort of disciplinary action might be enforced if a drugs test proves to be positive
  • What level of support, if any, would be given to an employee if they failed the test
  • How employees can find out more from their health and safety representative

The Nature of the Tests

Drug testing subjects should always be chosen at random or as the result of an accident or incident. In certain companies, testing can be targeted at a particular person(s) if the company feels that there has been a marked decline in a person’s behaviour or work performance and/or they have strong reason to believe that a person has been misusing alcohol or drugs.

Workers could also be targeted if an employer suspects that a worker’s actions could cause an accident. In addition to there being an agreed policy, any drug testing should be carried out under supervised conditions and must respect the dignity of the person being tested who must also have been asked if they are taking any prescribed medication which might interfere with the results.

The Government’s Standpoint

Both the UK government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agree that there should be no need for a widespread increase in the use of workplace drug testing. However, it is often considered necessary in certain jobs where safety and security are of critical importance such as in the armed forces, the financial sector, those who drive public transport, the nuclear industry, the police and the prison service.

The Accuracy of the Results

Drug testing samples should be collected in a tamper proof sealed container and placed under chain of custody which is the legal term for ensuring that the sample’s identity and integrity are guaranteed from the moment of collection to the reporting of the results from an independent laboratory.

Pros and Cons of Drugs Testing

The advantages of drugs testing include benefits for health and safety, efficiency, the welfare of workers and a company’s reputation but on the downside, they can damage relations between the workers and the company and there are also issues surrounding a person’s privacy rights.

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I haves a drug test today and have been suspended immediately. I work in the stores of a company that makes trailers. Am I going to be sacked or do they have to offer new help ???
Dt17388 - 28-Feb-19 @ 4:13 PM
Does a drug test need to be carried out by a doctor/professional or can anyone conduct them?
Boaby - 18-Aug-18 @ 10:32 AM
I had a pre employment drug test but was only told 2 days before. My urine sample failed and as a result i can no longer work in the industry i have done for 20 years. I have been barred from the network. Is this legal
Wicki - 6-Jun-18 @ 12:50 PM
Hi, I have been screened not long ago for D & A, in the induction of a big construction company in London and been found with traces of THC. Obviously, I have been sent home and there is a chance my industry working card to be cancelled (Sentinel card). I did puffed around 2 weeks ago, at a party. If anyone been in this situation before I would like to know what would be the worst case scenario
Habs - 16-Apr-18 @ 12:53 PM
Hi My work are currently consucring random DT's... I have told them what medication I am taking as prescribed by my doctor and how much I take. They have told me if I am tested it will be positive (I am taking amitrypiline,cocodamol and steriods (only a course that I am taking for a few weeks) I am not concerned that they can take me to a disciplinary as they are aware of my medical history and I have a prescription for all meds I take. However they have said I will be sent home on garden leave for 3 days until the lab sends a detailed result back confirming what is present in the positive test. My colleagues do not know my medical conditions and I do not want them too (its my business after all) and I am worries that I will need to explain to them why I have had a positive result (they will know as we all know how offices work!) I only really have 2 options tell them the truth about my condition (as i said i don't feel comfortable with this) or let them think i am taking illegal drugs. Can anyone advise if my work can make me take garden leave when my result shows positive? I feel sick to my stomach every day going in in case i am called up!!! Tia Siani
siani88 - 12-Mar-16 @ 10:09 PM
vplambeck - you should not be visually assesed.
demacca - 1-Sep-14 @ 4:28 PM
can my work legally visual drug test me.? they watch us pee when we do our drug test and i was wondering if that was legal?
vplambeck - 2-May-13 @ 11:01 PM
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