Drug & Alcohol Testing:

The Importance of Pre-employment Testing

Published: 24th June 2020

With around one-third (34.6%) of adults in the UK stating they have taken drugs1 and more than 25 million adults in the UK regularly drinking alcohol2, there is increasing support to make drug and alcohol testing part of pre-employment screening.

In this blog, we look at why employers introduce pre-employment testing and what steps you can take to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees.


Pre-employment testing accounts for 43% of all tests we conduct at SYNLAB Laboratory Services. Testing for drugs and alcohol during pre-employment screening usually takes place before an employee is due to start working at an organisation to act as a preventative measure to drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace. 


Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees in the workplace. An organisation should introduce a pre-employment testing programme as part of their overall health and safety policy to actively encourage a safe working environment from the first stage of the employment process.

Section 7 of the Act requires employees to take reasonable care of the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work. This would include the use or presence of drugs and alcohol at work. Pre-employment testing is useful to eliminate any potential substance misusers before they enter the workplace.

If the industry in question has employees who drive for work, it’s important to consider the laws surrounding driving under the influence whilst on the roads for work purposes. The law adopts a zero tolerance approach to alcohol and eight illegal drugs when tested at the roadside.

In some industries, drug and alcohol testing is enforceable by law. The rail and aviation industry are subject to drug and alcohol testing due to the safety critical nature of the industry. Although these industries have to introduce drug and alcohol testing, there are still many safety critical industries that aren’t obligated by legalities to do so. As a responsible employer, drug and alcohol testing should be mandatory in any safety critical industry whereby an individual misusing drugs or alcohol in the workplace could pose a potential risk to themselves and others by risking life and/or limb.


At SYNLAB Laboratory Services, we can support your organisation’s proactive commitment to the health and safety of individual employees, co-workers and customers by introducing pre-employment drug and alcohol testing.

There are a range of different testing methods available to meet your individual business needs:

Breath: The most effective way to test for alcohol is to use an electronic defensible breathalyser to test a breath sample.  At SYNLAB Laboratory Services, we use calibrated electronic breathalysers which are the same models used by many police forces in the UK. These breathalysers produce instant and accurate results.

Urine: The most effective method for drug testing is to use a urine test. Urine is considered the gold standard as it’s highly reliable and easy to collect and analyse.

Saliva: Saliva testing can also be used for the detection of drugs and is particularly useful in situations where toilet facilities are not readily available. With a narrower window of detection, saliva is used to look for use within the past day or less.

If you would like to arrange pre-employment testing, or to learn more you can contact our customer services team via email; [email protected] or call 01873 856688

1. Crime Survey England and Wales 2017/18

2. Office for National Statistics 2018

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