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Employers under pressure to drug test staff?

Eighteen Royal Navy sailors have tested positive for cocaine in a routine drugs test while on active duty on board HMS Liverpool.

Only days after film star Dame Helen Mirren told a glossy magazine that she enjoyed using cocaine when she was younger, these news stories could prompt employers to take a more stringent approach to drug testing in the workplace.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "The Royal Navy does not tolerate the misuse of drugs by its personnel and internal action is under way against all individuals, and investigations are ongoing."

He added that last year, the proportion of personnel tested positive for cocaine was 0.4%, compared with more than 7% in civilian workplaces.

A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said: "Certain jobs require mandatory drugs testing, but in a lot of industries it is up to the employer to decide if drugs tests should take place."

However, Richard Murfin, training and development manager at drugs and alcohol charity Addaction, said: "I'm not sure if there has been an increase in cocaine use lately or if it is just getting more press coverage. But drug testing staff and disciplining them is not [always] the best solution. There is a very fine line when dealing with these situations"

He added: "If a drug user works heavy machinery for their job, then they are a risk. But for [other] staff, education and training might be more productive."