Alcohol is the most widely abused drug in the workplace, making testing crucial. When you think of alcohol testing, you probably think about police officers testing drivers with breathalyzers. However, this is not the only way to identify the presence of alcohol in a person’s system. Whether you are assessing current intoxication or a history of prior consumption, a variety of specimens and methods can be used to identify alcohol’s presence. Be sure to explore the many types of alcohol tests to ensure that you select the best test for your company’s needs.
Types of Alcohol Tests
Alcohol can be identified in a variety of different specimens, including breath, urine, saliva, blood, and hair:
- Breath: Breathalyzers provide instant results and are commonly used by law enforcement. Breath testing is often used for DOT-mandated alcohol testing, and the person conducting the test is called a BAT (breath alcohol technician).
- Urine: Urine, which is easy to test, proves effective if the person is tested within two hours of alcohol ingestion. However, a urine specimen cannot show how frequently a substance is used, when it was last used or accurately specify how much was consumed.
- Saliva: Saliva is convenient and inexpensive, making it a good choice for workplace alcohol testing, but a positive saliva test is typically confirmed through a breath or blood test. Saliva is often used for DOT-mandated alcohol screening tests.
- Blood: Blood is the most invasive testing method, but it also allows for direct testing of the alcohol content in the blood and can be used to confirm a positive screening result.
- Hair: Hair specimens can act as a record of a person’s alcohol use, shining a light on substance addiction problems. However, testing hair takes time and requires laboratory confirmation, and also does not specify levels of consumption or the actual date of consumption.
In addition, note that employees in safety-sensitive positions are often required to undergo Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing. This includes workers in the following industries: aviation, commercial motor carriers, maritime, pipeline, railroad, and transit. The test employs specific regulations to ensure it is valid and the employees’ information is confidential. Before you implement an alcohol testing policy at your workplace, review DOT and non-DOT alcohol testing:
- DOT Alcohol Test: A federal examination, the DOT alcohol test is recorded using a three-part DOT Alcohol Testing Form. The screening test is performed first, and if it provides a positive result (an alcohol concentration of .020 or greater), a confirmation breath alcohol test is required within 15 minutes. The results must be printed in triplicate, and the confirmation also requires a print out. Finally, a violation of .040 or greater requires an evaluation by a substance abuse professional as well as a return-to-duty and follow-up process. Consequences related to performing safety-sensitive duties following a positive alcohol test also vary based on alcohol concentration.
- Non-DOT: With a non-DOT test, the level of violation and consequences should be clearly set by the company’s policy. Most commonly, non-DOT alcohol tests follow DOT standards.
For assistance and advice regarding the many types of alcohol tests, contact Employee Screening Services. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis, Indiana, we offer customized solutions to make alcohol testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows ESS to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!