The testing for alcohol abuse at work differs from illicit drug testing in that alcohol is not an illegal substance. Despite the legality of alcohol, working while intoxicated represents a safety risk to the individual using alcohol, other employees and clients.
Since the window for detecting alcohol and alcohol-related impairment is a very narrow one, these tests may tell very little else. Unlike many other drugs, the maximum detection period for Breath Alcohol Testing (BAT) is 6 to 10 hours; in contrast, marijuana can leave measurable metabolites in the bloodstream or urine for several weeks. As little as five hours is sufficient for alcohol levels in a legally intoxicated individual to fall to the point at which alcohol is undetectable.
Because alcohol is so quickly metabolized, individuals will "fail" an alcohol test only if they have been drinking within the few hours before testing. Conversely, "passing" an alcohol test does little more than rule out very recent alcohol use. Individuals who habitually abuse alcohol but abstain for drinking for a few hours prior to testing will still pass such a test.
Reasonable suspicion and post-accident alcohol testing is conducted somewhat differently than drug testing. Not all drug test collection sites are equipped to run alcohol tests. Locations should be pre-established within the clients’ zip code(s) prior to anticipated use.
The results of the Breath Alcohol Test (BAT) will indicate as positive a breath alcohol level of .02%, which is far below the level set by most states to be considered legally intoxicated while driving (currently 0.08% in CA). Consideration should be given to the “degree” of intoxication and its’ impact on the ability to perform while working. For example: BAT reading between .02% and .079%: Restricted to work that day in safety sensitive areas Reading .08% and higher: Subject to disciplinary policies (legal consul highly suggested) BAT is not reviewed by a Medical Review Officer
Prior to taking ANY legal action against an employee that has tested positive for alcohol legal counsel should be consulted.
Alcohol Testing Solutions from LabCorp