How effective is drug testing as a workplace safety strategy? A systematic review of the evidence

Accid Anal Prev. 2014 Oct:71:154-65. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2014.05.012. Epub 2014 Jun 9.


The growing prevalence of workplace drug testing and the narrow scope of previous reviews of the evidence base necessitate a comprehensive review of research concerning the efficacy of drug testing as a workplace strategy. A systematic qualitative review of relevant research published between January 1990 and January 2013 was undertaken. Inclusion criteria were studies that evaluated the effectiveness of drug testing in deterring employee drug use or reducing workplace accident or injury rates. Methodological adequacy was assessed using a published assessment tool specifically designed to assess the quality of intervention studies. A total of 23 studies were reviewed and assessed, six of which reported on the effectiveness of testing in reducing employee drug use and 17 which reported on occupational accident or injury rates. No studies involved randomised control trials. Only one study was assessed as demonstrating strong methodological rigour. That study found random alcohol testing reduced fatal accidents in the transport industry. The majority of studies reviewed contained methodological weaknesses including; inappropriate study design, limited sample representativeness, the use of ecological data to evaluate individual behaviour change and failure to adequately control for potentially confounding variables. This latter finding is consistent with previous reviews and indicates the evidence base for the effectiveness of testing in improving workplace safety is at best tenuous. Better dissemination of the current evidence in relation to workplace drug testing is required to support evidence-informed policy and practice. There is also a pressing need for more methodologically rigorous research to evaluate the efficacy and utility of drug testing.

Keywords: Drug testing; Evaluation; Safety; Systematic review; Workplace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health*
  • Occupational Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Substance Abuse Detection*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*