WDT in Europe

The results included in this section are the final recipient of the survey we did all over Europe.

Results presented here include, as far as possible, statistics on workplace testing in the different countries, inventory of the legislation in use in the different countries and needs for research. Results have been subdivided by Country and to access them you should click on the Country of interest.

  • Europe

    Council resolution on combating the impact of psychoactive substances use on road accidents, approved by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels on 27-28 November 2003 invites the commission to consider the possibility of proposing measures aimed at ensuring appropriate levels of control on professional drivers. Click here to read/download the document in .pdf format
  • Belgium

    At this time, no reliable information is available on the number of workplace drug testing tests that are performed in Belgium, but it is probably steadily increasing. It is performed in the automobile industry, transportation (railways), etc. Much onsite testing is performed. There have been reports that individuals dealing drugs in companies have been discovered and fired.

    There is no specific legislation on workplace testing. Pre employment drug testing can be done for jobs where drug use presents a safety risk.

    The General Medical Council has established strict guidelines in 1993: analysis may only be performed in a lab, drug testing is only allowed if clinical examination of impairment is not possible, positive results must be confirmed by another lab. A recent (2002) initiative to amend these rules did not succeed.

  • Denmark

    General Aspects

    Denmark has a little more than 5 million inhabitants.
    Up to 5 % of general public are assumed to be problem drinkers.
    In numerous surveys we find that approximately 12 % of young people are using alcohol and/or drugs on a weekly basis.

    Denmark carries out annual national campaigns against drug and alcohol abuse with strong tripartite involvement.

    There is no reliable information on the proliferation of WDT in Denmark.
    Two maritime companies in Denmark have carried out WDT approx. the last 5-10 years, and the numbers of companies are surely increasing. Most companies have a kind of written policy on alcohol, negotiated between employees and employer. There are increased awareness on help and treatment (EAP).

    Legal Aspects

    There are no laws mandating testing but equally there are no laws forbidding testing in Denmark.

    In 1999 an employee was dismissed from duty, after he was tested positive for Cannabinoids. The semi-supreme Court found that the company was in title to carry out drug test, and also to take the needed action. In addition to the court trial the employee raised the question for the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that it was a violation of privacy to carry out WDT.
    The Human Right Court concluded, that the test, as it was carried out, was to be seen as necessarily to obtain public safety.


    Today there is much effort laid into implementing WDT in Danish companies and roadside testing. Bearing in mind, that larger companies in Denmark have activities through out the European countries, it must be mandatory to them to create equal conditions for health and security.
  • Finland

    Legal situation

    Finland is preparing a bill concerning drug tests. Here is the summary of the working group memorandums of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2002:2:

    "The working group was assigned to survey the need for drug testing. The working group was also to survey legal questions associated with testing, to evaluate the reliability and feasibility of the tests and to assess the effects of drug testing. The working group was also given the task of, if necessary, drawing up proposals for setting rules for drug testing taking into account aspects of legal protection.
    The working group prepared an interim evaluation report which was published June 30, 2001. The working group was given an extension until January 31, 2002. The working group states that it is necessary to support the operational preconditions of different sectors of society to prevent the use of intoxicants and treat consequences. It is alcohol, however, that causes the largest amount of harm caused by intoxicants. For this reason testing for the use of alcohol is included in the draft bill of the working group.
    The working group has considered questions related to drug testing in the work life for the part of practical training in relation to studies. Possible drug testing in connection to education requires futher preparation. The working group considers it possible for the testing to be carried out technically reliably and is feasible as an intoxicant indicator, but it provides information only on the situation at the time of testing. There is a reason to draw attention to the implementation of intoxicant testing according to good practices and their correct interpretation. Quidelines concerning the practical implementation of drug testing are appended to the final report of the working group.
    According to the working group intoxicant tests should be directed and not general screenings. Properly directed and timed, the tests can be used to intervene in the use of intoxicants at an early stage and to take measures involving care etc. as well as to possibly slow down the use of intoxicants becoming more common. An intoxicant-free working environment improves occupational safety and job satisfaction.
    The working group has, in accordance with its assignment, prepared a draft bill on testing for intoxicants in the work life. In the act the rights and oblications of emploees, employers and health care professionals would be prescribed in relation to the intoxicant test to be carried out and the processing of the data. In the work of the working group aims related to health care were emphasised and are also emphasised in the draft bill proposed by the working group. According to the proposal the basis for the testing would be the needs for testing arising from work tasks and occupational safety as well as those related to an intoxicant-free working community. In obligatory tests the basis should be the need to evaluate the danger to life or health caused by work. Directed in this way, the tests would funtion in the same direction as the operational prinsiples of the Labour Protection Act and the Occupational Health Care Act."


    Today there is much effort laid into implementing WDT in Danish companies and roadside testing. Bearing in mind, that larger companies in Denmark have activities through out the European countries, it must be mandatory to them to create equal conditions for health and security.

  • Germany

    Since 1998, driving under the influence of drugs such as amphetamine, MDMA, MDE, cannabis, cocaine, heroin and morphine is sanctioned under Section 24a of the Road Traffic Regulations of Germany.
    There are no statistics at the moment about the number of workplace drug tests performed in Germany, but it seems that the number is steadily increasing. Companies have learned that the biggest problem stems from the so called compensated drug users, which don’t show obvious signs of drug use, but carry a specific risk via there psycho-mental impairment.
    Legally drug testing on a random basis is not accepted in Germany, but pre-employment testing and reasonable suspicion testing is accepted. It seems that more and more companies require a drug test before hiring a person. Standards of confidentiality have to be met.
    The result of a positive test result is not allowed to be communicated to the employer!!
    It is only the fit for work question which has to be answered.
    At the moment there is no specific legislation on workplace drug testing, or binding guidelines.
  • Greece

    Drug testing, in general, is being performed by three (3) University laboratories of Forensic Sciences at Thessaloniki, Athens and Crete, and by the laboratory established by the Ministry of Justice in Athens. No one else, public or private, is authorized to give results that stand at the Court.
    Workplace Drug Testing is being done only at Thessaloniki, Laboratory of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Aristoteles University. Applications for analysis come from:
    • District Attorney for prisoners accused for use, dependence and commerce
    • Directorate of Transportation for drivers granting driving licenses (when a license has been revoked for drug abuse)
    • Private individuals at the pre-employment stage, for Security Services. The latter is being done according to a law of 1997.
  • Ireland


    Ireland has a population of nearly four million people. The main industries are pharmaceuticals, information technology, tourism and agriculture.

    Workplace Drug Testing

    TThere is no legislation regarding WDT at present. Most of the testing is at the pre-employment level. It is difficult to acquire accurate numbers tested.
    The main sectors that are testing are:

    • Transport
    • Military
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Information Technology
    • Call Centres

    Many of the companies have the parent company in the US.
    There are at least four laboratories in Ireland that screen for drugs in the workplace. An unknown number of companies also use the Point of Care or "dipstick" technology.

  • Luxembourg

    Luxembourg has a population of approximately 425.000 inhabitants. Since 1990 the number of the population has increased of about 10%. About 30% of the residents are foreigners coming mainly from other European countries.

    In 1997 the active population was evaluated at 210.000 people. More than 62.000 workers are coming every day from abroad.
    30.000 workers from France
    17.500 workers from Belgium
    10.500 workers from Germany

    More or less 53% of the active population are foreigners coming principally from the European Community.

    There is actually no specific legislation on workplace drug testing. Only the HIV-test is forbidden. Some private companies are performing on-site testing for drugs-of-abuse, some companies are sending urine specimens to special laboratories.

  • Norway

    General Aspects

    Norway has a population of about 4.5 million inhabitants. In 2002 approximately 2 500 people were tested at workplaces. About 2-3 % of the urines contained drugs, if all medicinal drugs wee excluded the percentages was approximately 0.5. Since 2002 the number of people controlled per year has dropped somewhat, to about 1 700.

    Legal Aspects

    According to Norwegian law it is forbidden to use all drugs which are on the list of narcotics. This list also includes medicinal drugs, which are allowed when prescribed by a doctor. The detection of a drug on the list in a biological sample might thus constitute evidence for an illegal act.

    There are no laws specifically regulating the use of drug testing procedures at workplaces. In practice there should exist a drug policy within the company and the employer should obtain consent from every employee involved in any potential testing program before testing begins. There are official guidelines, issued by the Directorate of health and social affairs on how to collect, handle and analyze urine samples in situations where the results might lead to negative sanctions against the sample donor, as in e.g. workplace testing. These guidelines also contain requirements with respect to the qualifications of the laboratory involved and states that the analysis/interpretation of results should occur according to forensic toxicological standards. Most, if not all such samples are therefore analyzed at the Division of Forensic Toxicology and Drug Abuse, Norwegian Institute of Public Health.


    Workplace drug testing in Norway has so far been performed to a rather limited extent, and the interest has been declining during recent years. There exist guidelines for legally defensible drug testing in urine samples.
  • Portugal

    General Aspects

    On 31st December 1998 the Portuguese population was approximately 10 million inhabitants with 4, 830 million of persons employed in the second trimester of 1999. Although a high prevalence of alcohol consumption in Portugal's workplace is generally admitted, the true dimension of the abuse of illicit drugs remains an undiscovered mystery. Concerning drug testing at workplace nobody knows how many people are tested, how many tested positive, how many companies (and of which type of activity) are testing their employees.
    Few studies have investigated this subject. Vitòria [1] in 1994, on a survey on the companies of the Lisbon district with more than 50 workers, estimated 20% doing drug testing. Pinheiro et al [2] registered in 1997, 14% of the largest Portuguese companies (with a workforce over than 1000) performing tests, the majority in an unreliable way.
    Effective number of tests executed and its results are extremely difficult to obtain, as the majority of employers do not assume his testing programs. The most representative (and probably sole) indicators existent are those of the Portuguese Army (currently professionalised), the positive results obtained have decreased from 17% in 1986 to 5.8% in 1995 - of which 4.1% of the cases refer to cannabis and 1.4% to opiate [2]. It must be said that the Portuguese Navy is surely the greatest authority on drug abuse control and testing programs in Portugal, working since a decade ago very closed to the US Navy, where his professionals (medical doctors, toxicologists, and many others) were trained.

    Legal Aspects

    There isn't any law that regulates drug testing in Portugal at this moment. Moreover, consumption of drugs is not forbidden at the workplace from a legal point of view.
    Some public discussion concerning this topic started in 1995-96, when some of the investigations listed above were known, and conducted to a meeting with trade unions, the Government, the Portuguese industrial association and the Portuguese Navy (the technical and analytical support), which took place in Lisbon on July 1999.
    These institutions and social structures had celebrated a protocol of collaboration in order to create a national program to prevent drug abuse at workplace. As a part of this agreement, the Government had promised specific legislation, and the impression we got is that, conversely to same opinion makers and political previous positions, drug testing will be considered an unquestionable part of this program. It is too early to know the practical results of this protocol.


    Although the absence of a legal prohibition of drug testing, most of the companies are afraid to analyse their workers or applicants, fearing the potential legal consequences. Those who effectively have drug-testing programs do not assume it. A thick cloak of silence hides the real situation. This so called "conspiracy of silence" is so relevant, that it is known, privately, that some public institutions (the few that have GC/MS technology available) are in fact doing, not officially, confirmation tests for some companies.
    Anyway, most of the programs existent includes pre-employment testing and, as far as we know, the consent is not always obtained. Worse than that is the way of testing have been performed: only a minority of employers confirm the screening positives tests by GC/MS, and on site tests are often the unique method used for this purpose.


    • Vitoria, P.D. (1994). Consumo de alcool e drogas ilegais em empresas do distrito de Lisboa. Fundacao Portuguesa para o Estudo, Prevencao e Tratamento da Toxicodependencia, Cascais.
    • Pinheiro, J.; Pinheiro R.; Marques, E.P.; Vieira, D.N. (1997). O consumo de substãncias nas maiores empresas portuguesas. 4° Forum de Medicina do Trabalho, Lisboa
  • Sweden

    General Aspects

    On December 31,1998, the Sweden population was of 8.8 million persons. In 1998 23,997 people were tested in Sweden at workplaces. 503 of them were verified positive by gc/ms corresponding to a percentage of 2.3%.

    Legal Aspects

    There is no law in Sweden that regulates drug-testing. All handling and use of narcotics and anabolic steroids is forbidden. The Labour Court has on two occasions, 1991 and 1997, had cases regarding drug-testing. The latest ruling found "insignificant violation of individual integrity" and "As far as the Labour Court is concerned it is unrealistic that drug-testing should be excluded from an anti-drug programme because employers have reason to believe that drug-abuse does not occur. On the contrary a successful anti-drug programme in itself loses credibility if one refrains from drug-testing".
    The Government investigated the question of drug-tests in 1995, and found no reason for legislation, instead they found it preferable that the labour market itself regulate the issue.


    There are therefor no legal obsticles for drug-testing in Sweden. Most work places usually negotiate an agreement between employer and employees as to how the tests should be taken and who should be tested.
  • Switzerland

    Drugs of Abuse Testing Guidelines have been established by the Swiss Working Group for Drugs of Abuse Testing Guidelines.

    These guidelines are intended as recommendations. They are not (yet) of legally binding nature. Uniformity in the treatment of drug analyses is the targeted objective. The guidelines have been prepared for the clinical sector (emergency units), rehabilitation and drug information centers to monitor substitution and/or withdrawal treatment, for the forensic sector (traffic control, prisons, etc.), and the workplace (industry, transportation, military, schools, etc.).

    However, nowadays workplace drug testing is only performed in the area of public transportation, military, private schools, and very few private companies (like car industry, pharmaceutical industry), mainly in form of preemployment-testing. There are no statistical data available, as a survey planned by the WGDAT failed for technical, political and ethical reasons.

  • The Netherlands

    In The Netherlands there is no legislation which regulates workplace drugtesting.

    Furthermore pre employment drugtesting (and other clinical chemistry tests) is prohibited by law (protection of the applicant). Trade unions and occupational health physicians have objections to WPDT because it is an infringement of the individual privacy.

    Only one laboratory is performing WPDT. Annually 20.000 drugtests are performed for about 30 companies. Most companies with a drugtesting programme have activities in the petrochemical or shipping industry As there is no legal basis for WPDT drugtests are not obligatory and the employees have the right to refuse. The basis for a workplace drugtesting programme is the agreement about the drugtesting procedure between the employer and the workers council (in which members of several Trade unions).

  • United Kingdom

    Testing for drugs and alcohol began to be included within UK workplace polices towards the end of the 1980s. Initial interest came from the oil, chemical and energy industries, and all forms of transport. Today companies across a wide range of industries are looking at the way drugs and alcohol can affect business critical decisions as well as safety critical issues. There is no accurate assessment of the number of employees subject to testing, although a survey in 2001 by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) indicated that while 60% of companies have policies, only 18% include testing.

    There are no laws mandating testing but equally there are no laws forbidding testing. The major laboratories in the UK carrying out legally defensible workplace drug testing have co-operated to produce Guidelines on Workplace Drug Testing, to ensure that standards are maintained. It is expected that testing is only carried out within the framework of a drug and alcohol policy that includes clear rules, education on the issues, and help for those people with drug and alcohol problems. Employees should have indicated their agreement to the policy, either individually or via their employee representatives.

    The customary sample for drug analysis is urine. The individual must give informed consent for the analysis and for the results to be reported to the employer. Positive results are those that have undergone intensive laboratory analysis AND been reviewed to account for any medication the individual may have taken.

    The sample is split between two bottles, which are both sent to the laboratory. Only one bottle is opened, the second is kept in secure storage and can be transferred to another laboratory if the individual wishes to challenge the result.

EWDTS ® 2023, The European Workplace Drug Testing Society
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