Drug & Alcohol

Not only is there a legal obligation to provide a safer work environment, but drug and alcohol misuse can also have a huge negative impact on productivity and costs to your business.

The detrimental effects drugs and alcohol can have in the workplace has been outlined in studies and papers released by the Department of Health and various other government departments which have shown:

  • 76% of drug abusers are employed and the cost of employing a drug abuser can be significantly higher than that of a non-drug user due to lower productivity. In addition, this can result in more lost work days (with 17 million working days being lost each year nationwide).
  • Drug abusing staff will have a higher turnover and therefore increase training and recruitment costs alongside the possible introduction of rehabilitation costs and increased medical costs.
  • The rate of incidents and compensation claims will increase.
  • There is an increased risk of drug abusers selling drugs to work colleagues that would in-turn increase the drug-related problems in the workplace.

Employers should also be aware of duties under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Transport and Works Act 1992. Drivers of road vehicles must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving, attempting to drive or when they are in charge of a vehicle.

Certain rail, tram and other guided transport system workers must not be unfit through drink or drugs while working on the system. The operator of such a system must exercise all due diligence to avoid those workers being unfit.

  • Q. Why do we test for drug and alcohol?

    A. Not only is there a legal obligation to provide a safer work environment, but drug and alcohol misuse can also have a huge negative impact on productivity and costs to your business.

  • Q. What is a drugs test and how is it carried out?

    A. A urine drug test is the most commonly used test when job applicants or employees are screened for illegal drugs or alcohol use.

    Urinalysis shows the presence of drug residues that remain in the body after the effects of the drug have worn off.

    Saliva tests range depending on the drug, but most can detect drugs used in the last 12 hours to three days. Urine tests will also differ depending on the drug’s half-life but can detect most drugs for about two to four days.

  • Q. How do you test for alcohol?

    A. This is usually done at the same time a drug testing using an approved breathalyser.

  • Q. What type of tests are there?


    Pre Employment

    For Safety Critical Industries and mandatory testing such as for Network Rail and LUL.


    Random, or “spot,” drug testing is a strong deterrent to drug users because it is conducted on an unannounced basis. Using a random selection process (e.g., computer-generated), an employer selects one or more individuals from all the employees included in the employer’s workplace drug-testing program.

    For Cause

    Reasonable suspicion testing, also known as for cause drug testing, is performed when supervisors have evidence or reasonable cause to suspect an employee of drug use. Evidence is based upon direct observation, either by a supervisor or another employee. Specific reasons for reasonable suspicion testing include physical evidence of illicit substances, patterns of erratic or abnormal behaviour, disorientation or confusion and an inability to complete routine tasks or following an accident.

  • Q. How long does codeine stay in your system?

    A. The body quickly absorbs and metabolizes codeine narcotics. So for most standard blood or urine screens, codeine will be detectable for 1-2 days. However, codeine is detectable in hair for longer periods of time

  • Q. How long does it take for alcohol to get out of the body?

    A. As a rough guide, it takes about an hour for the body to process a unit of alcohol – to play it safe, it’s best to start counting from the time you finish drinking.

    So, if you have 20 units of alcohol and stop drinking at midnight, it’s going to be 8pm the following day before it’s out of your system.

    And if you think this won’t apply to you because you’re a moderate drinker, think again. It only takes ‘a few’ drinks to land you in trouble the morning-after.

    If, for example, you drink three 250 ml glasses of 14 per cent strength wine (10.5 units) and call it a night at midnight, in theory it will be 10.30 the next morning before you’re no longer under the influence. It might seem extreme, but if you are in any doubt, you’re better off not driving at all the next day.

Contact Agility R&C

Agility Risk & Compliance Ltd provide tailored solutions to mitigate risk and improve compliance in Health and Safety, HR, Training, and Occupational Health.

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