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#1 Posted : 11 November 2021 09:04:58(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Good Morning All,

I'm in local government but would be interested in wider view on this subject too if you could spare the time.  There is a proposal within one team to introduce randon drug and alcohol testing; that's it, they don't have detail of what they're thinking or any evidence of incidents associated with D&A.  Elsewhere research has been undertaken to develop a draft policy and to undertake a benefit analysis considering safety critical roles and so on.  Main roles in-scope as I see them may include HGV drivers and construction trades.

What I'd like to know is what (if anything) others may have done, what challenges that involved, staff buy-in or dispute, advantages/disadvantages and/or whether the subject may have been dealt with with better guidance for managers and support mechanisms for staff.


A Kurdziel  
#2 Posted : 11 November 2021 09:32:57(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

This topic keeps popping up on the forum. If you can get the search function to work, you will find dozens of threads on it.  Essentially it all comes down to:

  • Justifying this approach: do actually need to do it for safety or some other business reason-saying you don’t approve of drugs is not really a good enough reason
  • Applying fairly-will everybody be tested or just some of the staff. Why is the man in the van being tested but not the coked up sales manager or the drunk driving CEO?
  • What do you do if you find someone is positive? Sack them immediately, arrange some form of counselling or hand them over to the police etc?
  • What is the scope of the testing? Use of drugs at work? Turning up at work off your head from a heavy weekend or testing positive  after having indulged during stag do, in Amsterdam  a week ago?

See this from ACAS https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20210104114054/https://archive.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1986

#3 Posted : 11 November 2021 09:35:19(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

I have had to implement random testing but only did so because there was a clear need for it.  We had to do it, the people subject to the testing knew exactly why we had to do it, and they all signed contracts agreeing to it.  They still complained about it though because it was disruptive of their working day. Being clear about the purpose of the testing is a critical first step without which you will just be entering a nightmare for no good reason.  Random testing is destructive of employee trust and productive of data protection problems.

I recommend the following informative booklet which goes into the practicalities of collecting and analysing samples as well as the legal issues (it may have been updated since the edition I list):

Hegerty, D. and Stallard, M. (2013) A Practical Guide to Drugs and Alcohol Testing

Alan Haynes  
#4 Posted : 11 November 2021 10:59:05(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Alan Haynes

The railway industry has had a Drugs and Alcohol testing policy for quite some time  - its worth a Google, and the following page might be useful:-

Drugs and alcohol | Safety Central (networkrail.co.uk)

I introduced the random testing on a major project in the industry.  Only thing I insisted on, although it is a random screening process, was that the Executive Team were screened at the start.  I felt that it showed the process aplied to all, and not just frontline workers, and the Execs agreed.

It is a process fraught with arguments and distrust - especially at the outset

peter gotch  
#5 Posted : 11 November 2021 12:23:36(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
peter gotch

Hi Max

I agree with all the responses you have had to date

+ you need to think hard about what you mean by "safety critical".

D&A testing started in defined "safety critical" settings and has been backed up by legislative requirements. So, as example a member of the Board of Network Rail is very unlikely to be working in a "safety critical" environment except under very close supervision.

This doesn't mean that that the Board member shouldn't be subject to the same process as everyone else is an organisation decides on a blanket approach, rather than targeting only those actually doing "safety critical" work.

In simplistic terms "safety critical" means someone who is in an environment where mistakes could lead to multiple fatalties NOT one, or possibly two dead bodies.

So, the person maintaining the railway or driving an HGV is "safety critical", the person building a scaffold on a housebuilding site, or using that scaffold is NOT. Of course, if they fall it is critical to their safety!

If you go for the blanket approach some people will simply self-select out and go and work for someone else - similar result to mandating vaccination for anyone working in a care setting, including the visiting plumber.

Brian Hagyard  
#6 Posted : 11 November 2021 14:00:12(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Brian Hagyard


you say you are in local government so im guessing you have Union reps, what are their views?. It is possible to introduce such a policy - but its hard work. It has to be in everyones contract that they accept the tests otherwise you cannot insist on them - make sure you get HR involved in the talks early days.

#7 Posted : 12 November 2021 09:19:23(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

I have introduced and assisted with the introduction of quite a few D&A policies over the past 15 years and not a lot has changed....kate is right making sure that the scope is clear is a key point...most of they policies I have introduced have for 'for cause'..i.e. only tested when there is clear requirement and that is listed in the company policy...supvervisor/ manager training and a clear independant testing process.

The exemption I always add is Identified safety critical employees who can be subject to random testing - all new staff subject to pre-employment testing.

About being in thier contract - it is already, the key parts come under the requirement to comply with H&S legislation, The Road Traffic Act, Substance Misuse...it is a myth that if it isn't specifically stated it doesn't apply, the only thing that happens if needed is the definition of gross misconduct changes...in most cases you don't need to do that as this is wefare and if an employee comes to you and declares a problem, then you help...if the fall off the wagon, then exit...consultation always, and HR do need to be involved because ultimately it affects recruitment and disciplinary process....as always with these things is relies on a very very solid investigative process, if you have gaps there you will fail...

#8 Posted : 12 November 2021 15:26:42(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

In every instance where I've been asked if  D&A testing (not policy) should be introduced there has been a (perceived) issue with an individual eg off to the pub at lunchtime and returning to operate machinery, or someone with glazed eyes thought to be under the influence of drugs. So that's a management issue not resolved by carrying out random testing on the off-chance they will be caught, and in the meantime what if they had an accident? Management could be shown to be aware of the issue (often reported to them  by other concerned workers) and done nothing about it. And what would they do if they find half the workforce are on drugs?On one occasion a company went ahead and tested all the workers (no policy in advance) and caught practically all the workforce except for the person they wanted to catch, who was probably/possibly selling and not consuming it himself. 

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