Workplace Alcohol Testing Methods and Why Conduct One
07 July, 2023
Workplace alcohol testing is a precautionary measure to prevent alcohol-related accidents and injuries. The standard method is a breath test using a breathalyser. However, urine, oral fluid, and blood sampling are also available. Each test has different advantages and ideal uses for various situations. Moreover, companies conduct these measures to help manage the hazards of impairments. It allows them to monitor the abilities of employees to work safely and not endanger the well-being of others.
Alcohol-related incidents have been a constant source of concern in many industries. Impairments contribute to severe accidents and work disruptions due to decreased physical and mental functions. As a result, it lowers productivity, increases costs, and affects employee morale. Thus, many companies implement alcohol testing as part of their safety program. The succeeding sections will present the purpose of workplace tests and the various alcohol detection methods, and how they work.
Reasons to Conduct Workplace Alcohol Testing
Many employees consume alcohol after work hours to help them relax. In light to moderate amounts, it gives relaxing or euphoric effects. However, excessive intake can quickly lead to severe intoxication. This causes the blood alcohol levels to increase and impair perception, judgement, and motor control. In addition, the effects may last several hours and pose risks if a person goes to work.
Workplace alcohol testing is an effective way to detect current impairments and manage safety hazards. This practice helps prevent accidents, recognise alcohol issues early, and ensure compliance with the law. In particular, high-risk industries like mining, transportation, and construction are mandated to conduct alcohol tests regularly. Likewise, a comprehensive policy enables them to test under strict guidelines and protocols.
Another main reason to test for alcohol is in response to an incident or accident. Employers can immediately measure the blood alcohol levels of the workers involved and determine liability. Furthermore, it is valuable in pre-employment to hire a suitable candidate without potential abusive behaviours.
- Detects current impairment that may lead to accidents without intervention.
- Helps employers to determine liability and follow safety protocols in case of an incident or accident.
- Provides a way to measure employee performance and assess the impact of alcohol abuse on productivity.
- Ensures compliance with state or federal requirements and regulations, minimising legal risks.
- Deters alcohol use or abuse and promotes a healthy work environment.
- Maintains a more able and fit workforce. It also helps reduce absenteeism and employee turnover.
- Increases operational efficiency and productivity.
- Lowers costs on hospitalisation, compensation claims, and property damage due to fewer accidents.
Workplace Alcohol Testing Through a Breath Test
The breath test is considered to be the standard method of workplace alcohol testing. It uses a breathalyser to analyse a person’s breath sample to detect alcohol. The device measures Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), or the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. The breathalyser also shows the results after a few seconds. Therefore, it determines current impairments and aids employers make informed decisions.
Breath testing is a non-invasive and less expensive procedure compared to other tests. It is also accurate and reliable, following proper test guidelines. Moreover, a breathalyser is portable and easy to use, making it ideal for onsite testing. It also does not require a medical professional to administer the test. However, authorised personnel may undergo training in using a workplace breathalyser like the SHIELD Express Identity correctly.
Workplace breathalysers use fuel cell sensors to measure the BAC. This technology is specific to ethanol and not reactive to other compounds. Hence, it minimises the chances of false positives. Fuel cell sensors also remain more stable in back-to-back testing. Overall, a breathalyser is highly accurate and reliable.
How to Use a Breathalyser
Operating a breathalyser involves a few simple steps. First, turn on the device and wait for the sensors to warm up. Then, take a deep breath and exhale steadily into the breathalyser for the specified duration. The device will analyse the sample and provide a BAC reading within 10 to 15 seconds.
It is essential to use a clean and new mouthpiece for each employee that will take the test. Additionally, ensure the breathalyser is timely recalibrated to guarantee accuracy. Lastly, make sure that workers do not drink, eat, or smoke at least 15 minutes prior to the test.
Workplace Alcohol Testing Through Urine, Oral Fluid, and Blood
Urine and oral fluid tests are alternatives used in workplace alcohol testing. Firstly, a urine test involves collecting a sample in a specimen cup and submitting it to a laboratory for analysis. It can trace alcohol or metabolites, such as EtG, in urine for 48 to 72 hours, depending on the type of test.
Secondly, an oral fluid test involves swabbing the inside of the mouth with an absorbent stick to collect saliva. This method can detect alcohol within 10 to 24 hours after the last use. It can also measure the BAC levels. However, its range is more limited than a breathalyser. Due to its narrow detection window, it is suitable for determining recent alcohol consumption.
Lastly, a blood test is the most accurate type of testing. However, it is highly intrusive, more expensive, and has a longer turnaround time. Therefore, it serves as a confirmatory test for an initial screening with positive results. Urine, oral fluid, and blood tests require laboratory analysis, making it a less common option for alcohol monitoring.
Factors for Consideration
Selecting a test method depends on several factors, including accuracy, cost-efficiency, and organisational goals. Companies must choose a reliable device or alcohol testing services to get accurate results. Moreover, it depends on the circumstances that warrant the test, such as post-incident and reasonable suspicion.
Furthermore, it is necessary to consider the frequency of testing when choosing the test method. This can help companies manage the cost when testing at regular intervals or randomly. For instance, many companies use a breathalyser to enable them to test for alcohol without spending more. It is also readily available on a per-demand basis.
Workplace alcohol testing is a precautionary measure to help manage risks of alcohol use or impairment. The goal is to determine employees who are working under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, it is effective in preventing accidents, ultimately improving workplace safety and productivity. Moreover, several procedures can detect alcohol, such as breath, urine, blood, and saliva tests. Each method is suitable for various scenarios. Thus, it is vital to choose the right procedure to get accurate results.
Among these, the breath test is the standard method of alcohol detection because it is fast, reliable, and non-invasive. A breathalyser device is portable and easy to use without requiring medical assistance. Furthermore, an alcohol policy helps employers and employees know what to expect when testing for alcohol. In conclusion, companies conduct alcohol tests to prevent and manage safety risks effectively through various testing methods.