Onsite Drug Testing: What to Expect and How It Works

In the modern workplace, safety is just as important as productivity, if not more. This is why onsite drug testing has become an essential tool for employers across a range of industries. It offers a quick and effective way to identify substance abuse within the workforce, helping to create a safer and more efficient environment for everyone. 

By exploring the complexities of onsite drug testing, employers can make well-informed decisions about implementing drug-free workplace policies that work. At the same time, employees can gain a better understanding of what to expect during the testing process.  

No matter if you're an employer looking to improve workplace safety or an employee curious about the procedures, we’re here to provide you with the knowledge you need to navigate the world of onsite drug testing. 


So, let’s take a closer look at all the details of onsite drug testing.

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What is Onsite Drug Testing?

Onsite drug testing, also known as point-of-collection testing (POCT), refers to the practice of conducting drug tests at the workplace or another designated location instead of sending samples to an offsite laboratory. 

Onsite drug testing has become extremely popular over the last few years because it allows for faster results, usually within minutes. This makes it an attractive option for employers who want or maybe need immediate answers regarding potential substance abuse within their workforce.

Onsite drug testing typically involves collecting biological samples, such as urine or saliva, which are then analyzed for the presence of specific drugs or their metabolites. These tests can detect a wide range of substances, including marijuana (THC), cocaine (COC), opioids (OPI), amphetamines(AMP), and alcohol (ALC).

The specific method used for onsite drug testing can vary depending on factors such as the type of drugs being screened for, the desired turnaround time, and the resources available to the employer. 

However, regardless of the specific method, onsite drug testing aims to provide a reliable and efficient way to determine potential drug use among employees and help employers maintain a safe and productive work environment.

Who Conducts Onsite Drug Testing?

There's no single answer to who does on-site drug testing. It really depends on the company's needs and resources. Some companies train their own people to do it, others bring in outside experts, and sometimes mobile testing crews come right to the workplace.

So let’s take a look at how companies can approach this:

  • Train their own team. Some companies decide it makes sense to teach their existing staff, people working in HR or maybe nurses on the health and safety team, how to do the testing themselves. This can save money in the long run and gives the company more control over how things are done. The downside is getting everyone trained and equipped takes time and money.
  • Bring in the experts. Many companies find it easier to hire outside professionals who specialize in drug testing. These people already have the training and know-how, plus all the right tools and supplies, which simplifies things for the company. Another bonus is that using an outside team can help keep things fair and ensure all the legal rules are followed.
  • Call in the mobile crew. For some situations, it works best to have a mobile team of trained professionals come right to the workplace to collect samples and run the tests. This is handy for companies that have offices in different places or if a bunch of employees need to be tested in a hurry.

No matter who ends up doing the testing, the most important thing is that they know what they're doing. They need to be trained and certified to collect and handle the samples correctly and to run the tests accurately. They also have to follow strict rules to make sure the samples aren't messed up and that everyone's private information stays confidential.

How is Onsite Drug Testing Conducted?

The process of onsite drug testing usually involves several key steps:

Preparation and Setup

Think of the testing area as a mini clean room: it needs to be spotless, private, and bright to make sure it's sanitary and the person being tested is comfortable. And that’s what preparation and setup is there for. 

Before anyone walks in, everything needed for the test - collection cups, gloves, and testing kits  - is neatly laid out and ready to go. And, of course, the person running the test needs to wash their hands thoroughly and put on fresh gloves to keep things clean.

Collection of Samples

The way the sample is collected depends on what kind of test is being done. If it's a urine test, the person will get a cup and be asked to provide a sample. For a saliva test, it's a quick swab on the inside of the cheek. For breath alcohol, the person blows into a breathalyzer machine.

Analysis Methods

Two main types of analysis methods are used in onsite drug testing:

  • Immunoassay tests. These are rapid screening tests that utilize antibodies to detect the presence of specific drugs or their metabolites. They provide results within minutes, and people usually administer them when they need an urgent drug test done. However, they may be less accurate than confirmatory tests.
  • Chromatography tests. These are more complex tests, and they separate and identify individual drug components. They are usually used as confirmatory tests to verify the results of initial screening tests because they offer higher accuracy but take a bit longer.

Reporting and Interpretation of Results

The results of onsite drug testing are usually available within minutes for immunoassay tests and within a few days for chromatography tests. A positive result indicates the presence of drugs or their metabolites in the sample, and a negative result indicates their absence.

However, we need to mention that a positive result doesn't automatically mean the person who was being tested is currently under the influence of drugs. It just means that there were drugs in their system at some point, and it’s up to the person doing the testing to interpret the results more carefully.

The employer will have to consider several factors, such as the specific drug detected, the individual's medical history, and whether something could have caused a false positive.

Types of Onsite Drug Testing

There are a couple of different onsite drug tests that can be performed and, of course, each one of them has its own advantages and limitations. So let’s take a look at the most common ones so you can decide which one is best for you, your workplace, and your employees.

  1. Urine Drug Testing

Urine drug testing is the most widely used method when it comes to onsite drug testing. It’s inexpensive, easy to administer, and can detect a wide range of drugs, some of them being marijuana (THC), cocaine (COC), opioids (OPI), amphetamines(AMP), and benzodiazepines (BZO).

Take THC Urine tests, for example. They can usually detect if a person has used these types of drugs within the past few days or weeks.

  1. Oral Fluid Drug Testing

Oral fluid drug testing, also known as saliva drug testing, is becoming increasingly popular because it’s non-invasive and has quick results. All it takes is getting a saliva sample with a swab, which is then analyzed to see if any drugs are present. 

Oral fluid tests are generally effective at detecting recent drug use, usually within the past few hours.

  1. Breath Alcohol Testing

Breath alcohol testing is a common method for detecting alcohol use. It involves the person being tested blowing into a breathalyzer device, which measures the alcohol content in their breath. These tests provide immediate results.

There are a couple of different factors that will determine the type of onsite drug test that would be best to use in a workplace or a situation. These factors include the specific drugs being screened for, the desired detection window, and the employer's preferences and policies. 

The Benefits of On-Site Drug Testing

There are a lot of benefits to on-site drug testing for both employers and employees, all of which contribute to a safer and more productive workplace. So let’s take a look:

  • Immediate results. On-site testing usually provides immediate results, usually within minutes, and this allows for quick decision-making and intervention in cases of positive results. This is especially important in safety-sensitive industries where impaired employees can pose significant risks.
  • Cost-effectiveness. Compared to sending samples to off-site laboratories, on-site testing can be more cost-effective because it eliminates transportation and handling costs. The quick turnaround time also minimizes lost productivity and potential liability.
  • Deterrence of drug use. The presence of on-site drug testing programs can discourage employees from engaging in substance abuse. Knowing they may be tested at any time can encourage individuals to abstain from taking drugs, which fosters a healthier workforce and a culture of responsibility.
  • Increased workplace safety. On-site testing helps identify and address potential substance abuse issues quickly and efficiently, which ensures employees are fit for duty. This significantly reduces the risk of accidents, injuries, and other incidents related to drug impairment, particularly in industries involving machinery, vehicles, or hazardous materials.

The benefits of on-site drug testing extend beyond the workplace, contributing to a healthier society by addressing the broader issue of substance abuse. By prioritizing a safe and healthy work environment, employers play a crucial role in promoting the well-being of their employees and the communities they serve.

Best Practices for Employers

Implementing an effective onsite drug testing program requires careful planning, especially since employers need to ensure accuracy, fairness, and legal compliance. If you’re an employer, here are some practices that can help you:

  • Have clear drug testing policies. 

Develop a comprehensive drug testing policy that clearly outlines what the purpose of testing is, what substances are being tested for, how frequently you’ll perform the tests, whether there will be any surprise testing, and the consequences of positive results. 

The policy should be communicated to all employees and updated regularly to reflect any changes in regulations or company practices.

  • Employee education and awareness. 

Ensure to educate your employees about the drug testing policy, procedures, and their rights once every couple of months. 

You should provide them with information on the dangers of drug use, available support resources, and the company's commitment to a safe and healthy workplace. Open communication and transparency can foster a culture of trust and cooperation.

  • Handling positive results

Establish a clear protocol for handling positive test results. Depending on the severity of the offense and company policy, this may involve confirmatory testing, counseling or treatment options, and disciplinary action. 

However, you also need to ensure that all actions are consistent with legal requirements and respect the individual's privacy and rights.

  • Confidentiality and legal compliance. 

All test results need to be completely confidential and you need to handle all personal information with the utmost care. So make sure you comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws regarding drug testing, including those related to discrimination, disability, and privacy. 

Consult with legal counsel to ensure that your drug testing program is legally sound and protects the employer and employees' rights.

By following these best practices, you’ll be able to create a drug testing program that is fair, effective, and compliant with all relevant regulations. This will help promote a safer and healthier workplace while protecting the company's and its employees' interests.


Even though this topic can be uncomfortable and sensitive to some people, it’s an important one as more and more employers understand the importance of a drug-free workplace. Onsite drug testing plays a vital role in maintaining safety, productivity, and a positive workplace culture. 

By quickly and efficiently identifying potential substance abuse issues, employers can take proactive measures to protect their employees, customers, and overall business operations. As technology continues to advance, we can expect further innovation in the field of onsite drug testing, leading to even faster, more accurate, and less invasive methods.




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