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Workplace Testing Methods

There are various ways to test for drug or alcohol use, ranging from blood and hair analysis to simple oral fluid, urine and breathalyser tests. Each type of test has its own virtues, mostly relating to the window of detection.

As a rule of thumb:

  • Breathalysers show alcohol levels at the exact time of testing
  • Oral fluid (saliva) and urine tests can show recent drug use - typically in the 48 hours prior to testing (although cannabis can linger for up to 28 days)
  • Blood tests can show alcohol use dating back several months
  • Hair tests can do the same for both drugs and alcohol

You should also note that different tests carry different risks of false postives, so it sometimes pays to use multiple tests that produce comparable data. However, in the first instance, most workplaces tend to rely on breath tests for alcohol and oral fluid tests for drugs. Then they can consider other options in more serious circumstances.

Oral fluid is the favoured method of drug testing for two main reasons. Firstly, it's far less invasive and humiliating than other tests - it's just a matter of rubbing swabs on the inside of the cheek. And secondly, the process is easily supervised - so unlike urine tests, there's no risk of tampering at the point of sample collection.

However, the short window of detection has one major drawback: if tests are scheduled, it's easy for users to abstain in the days before. Then the test will come back as negative, even if the user has a regular habit.

For that reason, we always recommend that initial tests are random and unannounced. Then if more detailed tests are needed, using hair or blood samples, test dates can be set in advance - and users can only hide the evidence through more radical measures, such as removing hair from the face and body.

How can we help you?

Our expert team can manage every side of the testing process, from sample collection through to laboratory analysis - and if needed, clinical interpretation of lab test results.

We can carry out tests on a flexible basis, appearing at different times of day and on different days of the week. We find that this random element helps to enforce the message that testing can take place at any time, and often acts as a deterrent for persistent offenders.

Our experts are here to lighten the load. Here are some ways we can help:

Testing for

Which drugs can be detected through urine and oral fluid testing?


Testing for

A quick and simple measurement, for minimum disruption at work


Grounds for

When do you have a right to test for drugs and alcohol in the workplace?



Using test results to understand patterns and behavioural triggers


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