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Breathalyzer test at work
Breathalyzer test at work
Construction employee receiving alcohol breathalyzer test

When starting out with Alcohol & Drug Testing at work, there are essentially 5 different reasons for testing your company should be considering:

  1. For-Cause
  2. Random
  3. Reasonable Suspicion/Unannounced
  4. Pre-employment
  5. Testing everyone

Each reason for testing is important and comes with its own benefits, however it is important you specify in your workplace policy which types of testing you intend to do – to enable all reasonable methods be used.   For instance, if your policy stated you could only do ‘For Cause’ testing, and somebody came into work smelling of alcohol,  it could leave your decision to test open to challenge – unless the sole reason for testing was that the employee had been involved in an incident.

For your own benefit, when it comes to wording your policy try and envisage all possible situations where testing could be required.   To give you a brief idea, we will discuss the differences and benefits of each one.


For-Cause testing is used in the event of an accident or an incident:  you test the staff member involved to see if any alcohol or drugs are present in their system, which may have had an influence on the cause of the incident.    If there is to be any disciplinary action as a result of the incident, testing for alcohol or drugs using certified equipment is essential for a company to defend any challenges on further action taken.


Random testing is the best deterrent.  If your staff know they can be subject to alcohol or drug testing at any given moment, they are more likely to adapt their behaviour with regards to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work.

Implementing random testing can be done in several different ways – some companies use ‘random number generators’, others use a ‘red/green’ (or ‘yes/no’) button for employees to press on entry into the workplace.  Whichever method works for you, it’s best to try and avoid a pattern:  if employees know that they will only be tested if they walk past the office at a certain time, they won’t walk past the office!

Reasonable Suspicion/Unannounced

Suspicion-based testing is useful to establish whether or not an employee is complying with their employment terms & conditions.  Companies have a legal obligation under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 to protect the health, safety & welfare of their employees.  Ensuring the workplace is alcohol and drug-free is part of this requirement – if you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of excess alcohol to continue working, and it puts others at risk – you could be prosecuted.

Additionally, certain industries such as air, rail & maritime are subject to specific legislation to control the misuse of alcohol and drugs.  If a person is suspected of being under the influence at work, it is crucial to be able to establish legally whether or not they are complying with the terms of their employment.


With alcohol-related absenteeism responsible for 3-5% of all workplace absences, at a cost of between 8-14 million lost working days, sending the message from the very start that it is not tolerated within your company cannot be underestimated.

Misuse of alcohol or drugs is directly connected to poor productivity and performance, affecting team morale and employee relations.  Worst case, it causes adverse public image or poor customer relations.   Eliminate this from the start by introducing Pre-Employment testing, establishing the company expectations from day one.

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Vehicle Interlocks – 100% safety 100% of the time

Test everyone

Certain safety-critical industries may look into testing ALL employees EVERY day as being the only method suitable to ensure a completely drug and alcohol-free workplace.  This can be implemented in a variety of ways.

Installing interlock devices into your vehicles or machines is a fail-safe method of ensuring vehicles are NEVER operated by anyone under the influence of alcohol – they won’t even let the engine start without a clear breath test first.  With Facial Recognition technology, GPS location and SMS services there is little that can be done to get round the security of these devices.

Installing an entry breathalyzer system to a turnstile or entry gate ensures nobody has access to the workplace without first passing a breath test – rapid 100% screening with no additional manpower required.

Or for the most cost-effective rapid screener on the market that takes only 2 seconds to give a visual ‘yes/no’ result, look no further than the  AlcoDigital AlcoSaber.

At a cost of 0.001p per test at least cost cannot be the reason for not enforcing that Alcohol testing policy!

Whatever solution fits, we can help.