Trident Medical Services

A Partnership For Your Health At Work.

Drug and alcohol screening at work

Drug and alcohol screening at work

As an employer, you have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of your employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of excess alcohol or drug misuse to continue working and this places the employee or others at risk, you could be prosecuted.

What are the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on the workplace?

In addition to legal requirements and the risk of prosecution, there are many other reasons employers need to take drug and alcohol misuse seriously. Employees misusing alcohol or prescription drugs or using recreational drugs can have serious effects on the workplace:

  • It can cause staff to take time off sick
  • Staff who do come into work may be late
  • There may be a loss of productivity
  • There can be a detrimental effect on team morale
  • It can have a negative impact on your corporate image
  • There may be an increase in accidents (according to the CIPD, alcohol is a contributory factor in 26% of workplace accidents)

95% of UK organisations have zero tolerance towards the use of alcohol and drugs at work and nearly 88% have a written drug and alcohol policy.

However, 32% of UK employers admit that they don’t have enough knowledge or training to identify if a worker is under the influence of substances. So as employers, how do we know when someone is under the influence and what do we actually do to combat this?

Signs of drug or alcohol misuse

According to the HSE, signs of drug or alcohol misuse which employers might look for include:

  • sudden mood changes;
  • unusual irritability or aggression;
  • a tendency to become confused;
  • abnormal fluctuations in concentration and energy;
  • impaired job performance;
  • poor time-keeping;
  • increased short-term sickness absence;
  • a deterioration in relationships with colleagues, customers or management;
  • dishonesty and theft (arising from the need to maintain a possibly expensive habit).

Tackling drug and alcohol misuse

Organisations should consider introducing a drug and alcohol policy if they don’t already have one. The HSE provides good advice on how to implement a policy. Areas to consider are; health education, support or counselling for staff who may have a problem, and training for managers. In addition, another option is to introduce drug and alcohol screening.

Introducing drug and alcohol screening

Screening can be introduced in different circumstances:

  • new starters can be screened before commencing employment;
  • random screening can be done, for example, screening a certain number of staff every month or quarter;
  • screening can be done at particular times, such as after an accident.

It is important to ensure that employees agree to the principle of screening – this should be outlined in their contract of employment – making it clear that either random or scheduled screenings may take place

Consent should also be gained in writing from employees before any test is carried out.

How TMS can help

We can advise you how to establish, run and manage a drug and alcohol policy. In conjunction with our laboratory partner (certified to ISO17025) we provide pre-employment, random and for-cause drug and alcohol screening. We can also offer a 24-hour call-out service.

Our qualified occupational physicians are competent medical review officers who are trained to assess the significance of possible drug or alcohol misuse and co-ordinate counselling and rehabilitation where needed.

We can offer this service at your site or at our own offices, whichever is most appropriate.