Drug Test for Alcohol Detection: What are The Procedures?
07 July, 2023
Drug tests examine biological specimens for abused substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates. Some companies may also include a drug test for alcohol detection to monitor alcohol impairment. Moreover, there are various procedures to test for alcohol, including breath, urine, oral fluid, and blood. They are used in multiple settings, especially in high-risk industries and businesses. These tests aim to improve workplace safety and protect the health and well-being of employees.
Drugs and alcohol are one of the leading factors in accidents and injuries worldwide. Their prevailing use has affected personal relationships and livelihood. It also affects the society as a whole. Thus, many organisations implement drug and alcohol testing to manage the safety risks of drug and alcohol use. In this article, we will explore the various methods of alcohol testing in the workplace and the factors to consider when choosing a test.
What is a Drug Test for Alcohol Detection and What is its Purpose?
A drug test for alcohol detection includes examining samples for ethanol or ethanol biomarkers like EtG and EtS. These compounds stay in the system for several hours or days until they are completely metabolised or excreted. Therefore, it gives an indication of recent consumption, which can impair a person’s judgement and physical abilities.
This test is usually used in the workplace for safety reasons, especially in industries where operating machinery or driving is involved. It also serves as an effective deterrent against drinking before work or during working hours. Additionally, it can help identify employees who are dealing with alcohol use disorder and need intervention.
Companies and businesses can execute workplace testing through a drug and alcohol policy. The policy outlines the organisation’s goals and objectives, especially when managing safety risks and hazards. It includes the safety procedures and precautionary measures that employers and employees must follow. Likewise, it specifies the list of prohibited substances, the test methods, and the grounds for testing. Finally, it helps companies mitigate legal liabilities.
When to Test
- Pre-employment: employers require drug and alcohol testing for safety-sensitive positions to assess candidates who do not have potentially risky behaviours.
- Post-incident: administered after an accident or near-miss. It looks for the presence of alcohol to determine if it was a factor in the incident.
- Random test: this test is unannounced and done at random intervals. It helps monitor employees who are under the influence of alcohol and hiding their impairment.
- For-cause: this test is conducted when an employee displays signs of impairment.
- Return-to-duty: an employee performs this test after a leave of absence due to hospitalisation, treatment, or previously getting a positive test result.
Drug Test for Alcohol Detection Methods
There are several ways to conduct a drug test to detect alcohol. The most common procedure is the breath test. It measures the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) through the breath samples. The BAC is the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream, expressed in grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. It reflects how much alcohol has been consumed and how it affects an individual.
A urine test is another procedure that looks for alcohol or metabolites. This method can detect past consumption from several days ago, even after the effects have worn off. In addition, urine screening kits are also available that can return the results after a few minutes. It can detect the presence of alcohol but not measure the amount.
Meanwhile, an oral fluid test is an alternative method when a urine sample is difficult to obtain. It can detect alcohol in saliva within 10 to 24 hours after consumption. Lastly, a blood test is the most accurate type of testing. However, it is intrusive and costly. Thus, it is suitable for confirmatory testing.
Breath Testing Device
A breathalyser is a portable electronic device that measures the BAC through exhaled breath. It utilises sensors that react when it comes in contact with alcohol. The chemical reaction produces small electric currents relative to the concentration of alcohol in the blood. Then, it converts the number of currents to the BAC.
The device is non-invasive and easy to use. A person blows to the mouthpiece and waits for the results to display within seconds. Therefore, it is an efficient process when testing for alcohol. The breath test process completes in a few seconds, allowing employees to get to work for passing results.
Implementing a Drug Test for Alcohol Detection in the Workplace
Workplaces can execute a drug test for alcohol detection through an established policy. Employers must follow strict protocols and guidelines to carry out the procedure. Firstly, they must inform employees about the policy and its implications. This is to secure the employees’ consent for the test that will be conducted. Also, it helps prevent legal liabilities in case of non-compliance.
Secondly, the test may be done in the clinic or on-site. Most companies prefer to use mobile testing services to conduct the test near the workplace. The employer or testing agency set up a secured location for sample collection and screening. If the test results are negative, workers may go back to work immediately.
For a breathalyser test, the BAC results will show within 10 to 15 seconds. However, urine or saliva samples may require laboratory testing if the initial screening detects alcohol along with illicit drugs. Advanced testing can measure the quantity of alcohol in a person’s system. Lastly, employers make decisions based on the policy.
Employees face disciplinary actions when their test results come back positive. Most workplaces impose suspension or dismissal in extreme cases. However, it must undergo standard procedures to ensure the legality of the decisions. Furthermore, employers may offer intervention to workers with alcohol addiction through an Employee Assistance Program.
The program includes counselling, education, and support to help affected workers manage their condition. The goal is to help employees recover from their drinking habits and make healthier choices moving forward. As a result, employees can focus on their condition and return to duty after successful rehabilitation.
The drug test for alcohol detection is an effective measure to identify and prevent potential harm from alcohol consumption in the workplace. Companies use various methods of testing, including breath, urine, oral fluid, and blood tests. Each type has advantages and is suitable for different circumstances. For routine or random monitoring, many use a workplace breathalyser like the SHIELD Express Identity as a convenient device. It is non-invasive and can produce results within seconds.
Alcohol tests help ensure the safety and well-being of employees. It helps monitor individuals who may be working under the effects of alcohol. Therefore, it helps manage safety risks and prevent accidents. Moreover, it can help employees who have drinking problems and need treatment. Companies must ensure that their drug and alcohol policy follows the necessary regulations. Finally, it is vital to choose the right testing methods and procedures to ensure the accuracy and validity of results.