Alcohol can be either good or bad. Most people use it to set the mood in social engagements. Some believe it makes socializing more pleasurable, but only if consumed moderately. Unfortunately, alcohol is one of the most abused substances worldwide.
According to statistics, 14.5 million people in the United States ages 12 and older have alcohol use disorder. In the workplace, alcohol abuse is mostly frowned upon by employers. Consequently, it affects the business in several ways—from poor job performance and reduced productivity to workplace injuries and even fatalities.
Most companies in high-risk industries, such as construction and manufacturing, are now implementing workplace alcohol testing programs. Suppose you’re a new employee or applying for a job. It may be best to find out if your employer conducts alcohol testing methods so that you’ll be prepared for the test.
In this article, you’ll learn the basics of workplace alcohol testing and the different testing methods available.
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Understanding Workplace Alcohol Testing
Workplace alcohol tests help detect alcohol and its metabolites in the body. Alcohol tests are performed to determine if a person is currently intoxicated or has consumed alcohol recently. They’re typically conducted during pre-employment health screenings. However, some companies may require these tests during routine workplace screenings.
The primary reason for alcohol tests is to enhance the health and safety of the workplace. Alcohol intoxication is a liability for businesses, especially construction and manufacturing companies. Moreover, alcohol isn’t a performance-enhancing substance. It negatively impacts your reaction time, concentration, and overall productivity.
Workplace Alcohol Testing Methods
Workplace alcohol testing ensures health and safety. Meanwhile, it can be mandatory and legally required for some industries, especially truck drivers and pilots. Generally, there are three ways to perform alcohol testing.
The traffic police commonly use an electronic portable breath test during routine checkpoints. However, it can also be an excellent tool for quick workplace alcohol testing since it provides instant results. With this testing method, a person blows breath into the device. Then, it’ll immediately analyze and estimate your blood alcohol content (BAC).
After consuming alcohol, the body absorbs the chemical through the stomach lining and moves it into the bloodstream. When blood passes through your lungs and comes into contact with air, the alcohol in it will evaporate.
Alcohol can be expelled from the body simply by breathing. Therefore, the amount of alcohol in your system can be determined by blowing into a breathalyzer. This device is generally safe and offers an unintrusive testing method for employees. Also, it’s inexpensive and provides fast results.
In some cases, breath tests may produce false positive results due to numerous factors, such as medications and health status. Overall, it’s the most suitable way to detect if a person is intoxicated.
2. Blood Tests
A blood test is a more intrusive method to test for alcohol use. However, it can provide better accuracy than breath tests. A blood test looks for actual alcohol traces in the body, making it more suitable for determining alcohol abuse within three to four weeks of consumption.
Essentially, consent to have an employee’s blood drawn and tested is required due to its intrusive nature. On the other hand, refusing a blood test may have significant legal consequences, especially if the law requires it.
Blood tests should be performed only by trained professionals. These include nurses, doctors, and laboratory technicians. It’s also more costly than other testing methods.
3. Hair Tests
Also known as hair follicle tests, hair alcohol tests offer a more accurate and comprehensive result. It’s also safer than blood tests since it only needs a few strands of hair. Hair tests are also best used for checking the history of alcohol misuse, thanks to their extended detection period.
With this type of testing method, alcohol can still be detected even after 90 days of consumption. A small patch of hair closest to the scalp is collected during a hair test. For bald employees or those suffering from a condition that causes hair loss, the lab technician may collect hair from other body parts, including the armpit.
The hair specimen will be sent to a lab to be tested. Test results will be available in just a few hours or days. Although it offers a faster turnaround, hair tests may not be suitable for checking current intoxication since alcohol may not be present in the hair follicle for at least seven days.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease affecting millions worldwide, including businesses. Thus, alcohol testing has become a widely accepted strategy to ensure wellness and safety in the workplace.
So, if you want to pass the alcohol test and secure a job, understanding the different workplace alcohol testing methods can help you become more prepared.