What are breath alcohol tests?
When can employers make them part of pre-employment or employment screening for alcohol use?
How Breath Alcohol Tests Work
The individual being tested blows into a breath alcohol device, and the results are provided as a number. This number is known as the blood alcohol concentration, (BAC), and shows the level of alcohol in the person’s blood when the test was administered. A breath alcohol test will not measure the past usage of alcohol.
The Device Itself
Devices to test breath alcohol level measure how much alcohol is currently within the blood of an individual. They are most commonly known by the term (the “Breathalyzer”), for one specific type of device. Blood alcohol tests also show the current level of intoxication or impairment, but not past use. However, some drug tests do show past use.
When Employers Use the Test
Usually, companies who practice alcohol testing upon employees will make it clear during or soon after hiring–alcohol and drug testing policies are almost always included in employee handbooks. Employee refusal to submit to alcohol testing may be grounds for firing. Employers may use alcohol testing under specific conditions:
• Post-accident testing is another common scenario if there was alcohol or drug use is suspected, and personal injury or property damage happened in the workplace.
• There may be a policy that tests when there is reasonable suspicion, also known as probable-cause or for-cause testing, and there are documented signs of possible alcohol or drug use by an employee.
• Random testing may be done on an unscheduled, unannounced basis on employees who are chosen indiscriminately from a testing pool.
• Mandatory alcohol testing exists for employees in some industries regulated by the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of Transportation
The United States Department of Transportation specifies when applicants can be tested for alcohol as part of pre-employment screening:
• The testing must be conducted as a post-offer requirement.
• The testing must be performed upon every applicant for a position.
US DOT Required Testing
Mandatory alcohol and drug testing are required by the United States Department of Transportation for some industries and occupations.
This mandatory testing includes trucking, maritime, aviation, railroad, pipeline, and transit employees in safety-sensitive professions. A safety-sensitive employee in the transportation industry is an individual who provides a safe work and transportation environment for co-workers and the traveling public.
The legal limit is .08, for being considered impaired by alcohol while driving. However, the blood alcohol concentration that is judged as impaired is a lower number than the standard driving BAC.
The United States Department of Transportation regulations dictate that a .04 necessitates removal of the employee in question from driving or other safety-sensitive responsibilities. A result of .02, under DOT regulations, might require removal from tasks for a designated period of time.
Other regulations governing alcohol usage for safety-sensitive employees:
• Employees must not report for service or remain on duty if they are under the influence or impaired by alcohol.
• Employees must not use or possess alcohol or any illicit drug while assigned to perform safety-sensitive functions or while actually performing safety-sensitive functions.
• Employees must not use alcohol within four hours (8 hours for flight crew members and flight attendants) of reporting for service or after receiving the notice to report.
Blood / Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Calculators
There are calculators available to work out your estimated blood/breath alcohol concentration based on the number of drinks you’ve had, your weight, how quickly you drank them, and your gender. 1 ounce of alcohol stays in a person’s system for 1.5 hours on average.
Currently, there are no federal laws prohibiting drug or alcohol testing. But some individual states limit employers from random drug testing of employees aside from individuals in safety-sensitive positions.
Dr. Michael Givens DC, CME
Drug & Alcohol On-Site Testing
This works best for multiple employee testing and reduces time spent off the job, liability in sending personnel off-site, and is convenient for employer and employees. Call today to discuss the benefits of on-site testing and scheduling.
Our Services include: DOT and Non-DOT Testing, Social & Family, Judicial (Court Ordered), Random Drug Testing, Post Accident Testing, Pre-Employment Functional Testing, Reasonable Suspicion, On-Site Employee Testing, Paternity Testing
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