Alcohol Testing At Work

UK Drug Testing guide to alcohol testing at work

  • Alcohol testing at work can be an important part of any HSE program.
  • Alcohol testing is especially important in safety-critical employment roles.
  • Zero tolerance is the term used to exclude alcohol at levels above 0.02% BAC (blood alcohol concentration)
  • The 0.02% level is set to exclude low alcohol levels which may arise as part of metabolic conditions, (eg keto-acidosis in diabetics) and other materially insignificant alcohol blood levels from passive ingestion or fermentation.
  • In simple terms, you can not set the zero tolerance alcohol test level at zero as you would need to exclude a whole range of mitigating excuses. 0.02% avoids all these.

Important information about blood alcohol levels

  • It is important to remember that alcohol levels can continue to rise for several hours after an individual has last consumed alcohol, and that the levels may continue to rise after you have performed a breath alcohol test.
  • Any alcohol in the blood impairs an individuals ability to perform a task at work, and consequently, increases the chances of having a work related accident.
  • In view of this if any alcohol is detected by the breathalyser, even if the colour change indicates that the alcohol level is low, we advise that the individual should not drive or operate machinery if any alcohol has been consumed in the 3 hour period before testing.

Workplace drug and alcohol testing

Permission to drug or alcohol screen at work guidance for employers

In UK employment law an employer can ask an employee to volunteer a sample for drug and alcohol screening. If this request forms an existing part of the employment contract the employee has agreed to consent. If not the employee may decline.

What to do if the employee refuses to do a test?

In the UK an employee can refuse a voluntary request to produce a sample for drug and alcohol screening, even where the employment contract includes pre-agreed terms for drug and alcohol testing as part of their terms and conditions of employment.

It is normal practice for employers to manage such refusals in the same way they would action a non-negative on-site test. The justification for this is given in the following paragraph. 

The employer has a duty of care to ensure a drug and alcohol-free, safe working environment.

  • Requests for drug and alcohol testing must be seen as fair and reasonable.
  • Random drug and alcohol testing should be just that.
  • Targeted drug and alcohol tests must be justifiable.
  • Keep good records.
  • Confirm all non-negative alcohol test results using an accredited method which will stand tribunal examination.

How to test for alcohol use at work

We have the following alcohol tests available to buy online:

Alcohol and drug test for employment

If you are d & a testing (short for drug and alcohol testing) in the workplace, it is often useful and simpler to use a combined drug and alcohol test kit that screens for both alcohol and drugs on the same oral fluid (saliva) sample. In this situation you can use a combination drug and alcohol testing kit for saliva as your first line, then use an evidential breathalyser +  lab confirmation drug test to confirm any positives.

Alternatively you can use a separate drug test and a digital alcohol breathalyser or disposable alcohol tester kit as your first line d & a test.

Drug and alcohol testing 

In fact many UK companies now wish to combine their onsite workplace drug and alcohol testing also known as d & a testing by using a single oral fluid saliva drug and alcohol testing kits as their initial first line drug and alcohol screen. 

Positive drug test results can then be sent for a GCMS laboratory drug screen for any drugs that test positive with the rapid onsite oral drug test kit.

If you need any help or advice choosing an alcohol and drug test for employment please do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to assist you.

Alcohol test information page last reviewed and updated 19/12/23

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