Workplace Alcohol Testing

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Posted by: David Garcia July 14, 2023

Most employers have strict policies prohibiting alcohol use at work. For that reason, mandatory alcohol testing is a routine part of many workers’ lives. 

An employer might mandate alcohol testing in the workplace for numerous reasons, and there are just as many ways to test for alcohol use. Learn everything you need to know about workplace alcohol testing, including what you need to know to be prepared, in the following guide.

Common Reasons for Workplace Alcohol Testing 

There are several reasons why an employer might subject their employees to a round of alcohol testing, including:

  • After an accident or incident
  • Return to duty
  • Randomized testing
  • Post-rehab to confirm sobriety
  • Hiring process formality, a condition of employment

Consuming alcohol before or during work is an unthinkably reckless activity to many of us, and yet the behavior persists. Several studies have illuminated links between workplace stress and alcohol use as a coping mechanism, for instance, as well as categorical markers that indicate higher incidences of workplace drinking, like gender and work type (men and skilled trade workers were found to drink more).

For these reasons, alcohol testing has become a routine aspect of work culture.

Types of Alcohol Tests: How Do They Work?

Not all tests are created equal. You ought to expect workplace drug and alcohol screenings, regardless of your work type or skill lev…” with “Not all tests are created equal.

Breathalyzer Testing

Some of us may have become familiar with breath analyzers, or Breathalyzers, from their prevalent use among law enforcement and in media. Also known as Evidential Breath Testing (EBT), this is the most common form of alcohol testing in workplaces.

The Breathalyzer method is also unilaterally approved for use by government agencies such as the Department of Transportation. This isn’t the most reliable screening technology out there, but this method of blowing into a device that displays an instant readout of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is certainly popular.

Urine Test

Urine tests are not as common as Breathalyzers. The problem with urine tests is they’re too reactive to BAC, and can give positive intoxication readings even if the individual consumed a drink many days previous. You may be subject to a urine test, but its untrustworthiness makes that unlikely. 

Blood Alcohol Testing

Drawing blood and testing it for alcohol content is the most precise method of BAC testing. These tests look for BAC under .02 to clear employees. Anything in the .02-.04 range is suspicious, and over .04 for many employers is grounds for immediate termination. 

This testing method is expensive and invasive, however, and not as common as the Breathalyzer method.

Saliva Screening

This is another instant testing method, like the Breathalyzer, that also looks for a reading of under .02 BAC, like the blood test. All of these tests must be performed by registered clinicians, and the saliva screening is no different.

This test isn’t quite as precise as a blood test, but it is inexpensive and immediate, so it’s fairly popular.

EtG Alcohol Testing (urine and hair)

An ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test can be conducted by collecting a urine sample or sample. The material will be tested for the EtG compound, which registers whether alcohol has been consumed up to 80 hours previously. 

This is not a recommended workplace testing method as, like urine testing, it does not accurately measure current impairment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do They Test for Alcohol at Work?

The most common forms of workplace alcohol testing are the Breathalyzer method and the saliva test. They’re instant, somewhat reliable, and inexpensive. Though blood tests are more exact, they are time-consuming and expensive.

What Does an Alcohol Test Consist Of?

Different tests consist of different steps. Some require as little as a mouth swab; some are as invasive as a blood draw. It depends on why your company is conducting a test, how accurate they want results to be, and how immediately they want them.

Final Thoughts

Alcohol testing is a common process in the workforce. Employers may require tests from their employees for many reasons, including pre-employment verification, post-rehab tests to confirm sobriety, and re-integration testing after an employee has been out with an injury. It is also an employer’s right to simply test randomly at will.

There are several types of tests on the market, the most popular being the Breathalyzer method and the saliva test. The Breathalyzer and saliva test both provide employers with instant results, and they’re both inexpensive. They may not be as accurate as a blood test, but they’re certainly more accurate than a urine test or hair test.

If you’re curious about the types of pre-employment screenings employers routinely order of their job candidates, check out ScoutLogic. Our dedicated Scout service model will ensure that your pre-employment screening needs are met promptly and comprehensively.

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