Why Onsite Drug Testing Works

Onsite drug testing can take a number of different forms. It can often be conducted for medical reasons, such as monitoring somebody’s drug history if they are in rehabilitation, or in the case of workplace drug testing, to ensure that a person is negative and therefore safe and fit for duty.

Who conducts Onsite Drug Testing?

Many companies operate a drug and alcohol policy, which enables them to conduct a test in certain situations, such as in an accident or incident situation, or when someone is showing signs or symptoms of substance misuse. This is known as a “for cause” test. Some employers also conduct a small measure of random drug screening or ask job applicants to participate in a pre-employment drug test prior to acceptance with the company. Doing such tests can help to deter the use of drugs or alcohol, which creates a measurable benefit for the business.

Drug misuse has been shown to increase absenteeism, workplace accidents and ill health, so many employers take steps to reduce their potential risk. Several studies have been conducted over the years, which demonstrate a significant improvement in workplace safety and accident rates when drug testing procedures are in place.

What difference does Drug and Alcohol Screening make?

When carrying out testing for our clients, we have seen positivity rates drop from upwards of 60% positivity initially, to as little as 2-5% in just a matter of months. It is amazing how effective it can be as a deterrent – even if very little testing is carried out. Home Office figures have shown that as many as 53% of young adults (aged 16-29) have used drugs in the last year, so having a deterrent in place is a must for many companies.

The Home Office figures may be shocking, but study data from less official sources, such as motoring magazines (where those people surveyed feel free to be more candid) are even higher. One study conducted by Auto Trader magazine found that out of 8,000 young motorists surveyed, a staggering 40% admitted to feeling fine to drive after using illegal drugs and 10 percent admitted to regularly doing so. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 8 percent admitted having had an accident whilst being under the influence, with 11 percent admitting a near miss!

A study of cocaine users by Narcotics Anonymous showed that over 70% of the cocaine users interviewed were in full-time employment, but worryingly over 44% of them admitted to having supplied cocaine to their colleagues at work.

Clearly, by having onsite testing in place, the chances of such dangerous behaviours is reduced.

How is testing conducted?

The testing itself can be carried out in various different ways. Quite commonly, onsite drug testing kits are used to give an immediate result based upon either a urine or saliva sample. This frequently involves the use of a 10 drug test cup, or 6 drug saliva test. Onsite test kits give a result in as little as one minute, but positive test results can take as long as five minutes before they can be read.

In the case of a test required for medical reasons, the onsite test kit is over 99% accurate and is therefore considered sufficient evidence to help make a clinical decision or to prescribe medication.  In the case of a workplace drug test, particularly if it is testing an existing employee (with an employment contract), then a further laboratory test is required before disciplinary action can be taken. This is to rule out the possibility of any medication affecting the result and to create an appeals process, where a secondary independent test can be conducted.

The same urine sample which was collected for the onsite drug test would be packaged and sent away to the laboratory. This would involve splitting the sample into two bottles, known as sample A and sample B. The donor would have to sign another consent form, along with sticky barcoded labels, which would be used to seal the samples. These would then be sent to the laboratory under full chain of custody. This creates an evidential test, so the test results can be relied upon as evidence in the case of any disciplinary action.

If the sample does have to go to the laboratory, results are typically available in 2 to 3 working days or less. Take a look at our laboratory services page for more details.

In a healthcare setting, such as a drug or alcohol rehabilitation centre, the onsite test would be conducted by the staff at the centre.   When it comes to workplace drug testing, It depends on the company as to how they prefer to operate. Some will train their staff to conduct the testing in-house using disposable test equipment (followed up by laboratory services), whereas others would prefer an independent drug testing service to conduct the testing.

All organisations can benefit from an agreed policy on drug/alcohol misuse. You could include a drug and alcohol policy as part of your overall health and safety policy .

Health and Safety Executive (HSE.gov.uk)

When is onsite drug testing not a good option?

There are certain situations where onsite drug testing by urine or saliva is not considered to be the best option. The most common example of this would be during a custody case going through family courts, or if social services are concerned about the well-being of a child. In such situations, the window of detection for both urine testing and saliva testing is considered to be too short to be effective. The courts will often expect a three-month proof of abstinence. This typically comes in the form of a hair drug test, which is capable of detecting any drug used over the course of the last 3 to 6 months. In this situation, the person being tested would have to attend a meeting with a professionally recognised person to collect the hair sample. This could be a solicitor, GP or a nurse, or one of our trained onsite drug testing collection officers. Please contact us if you would like a hair drug test to be carried out.

How can MHE help you?

Medical, Health and Education Ltd work with customers of all sizes and requirements and can either provide the test equipment and laboratory chain of custody packs to facilitate such testing, or we can attend site to conduct the testing on your behalf. Please contact us for further details on our services and how we can help you today.

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