An increasingly large number of employers are now screening their workers for alcohol use, even if they are not required by law to do so.
After all, an alcohol and drug free workplace means fewer accidents, lesser turnover costs, and lesser worker compensation claims.
You cannot expect your workers to quit alcohol on their own.
Are you planning to initiate a drug-free workplace program in your company? Here are the top tests for alcohol screening in the workplace:
1. Saliva Alcohol Test
Alcohol screening in the workplace with oral fluids or saliva is non-intrusive, accurate and cost-effective; sample collection is easy and disposable saliva alcohol test kits are cheaper in comparison to other testing methods.
The saliva samples are generally collected in presence of a supervisor or HR manager. So, there is little or no possibility of tampering. Employers can administer saliva tests quickly and test results are available almost immediately.
No wonder, saliva test is one of the most popular workplace alcohol screening methods today. When a person consumes alcohol, it gets into the bloodstream fairly quickly. Thereon, alcohol interacts with various systems inside the human body; it leaves behind traces of metabolites that can be detected in a person’s saliva for about 12 to 24 hours.
24 hours after ingestion, alcohol is almost completely metabolized in the human body and can no longer be detected in oral fluids. Therefore, when testing workers for alcohol consumption with a saliva test kit, ‘timing’ is critical. A saliva alcohol test kit can only detect recent alcohol use.
Most companies employ this alcohol test for screening their workforce prior to duty for certain roles (e.g. driving a truck, or operating a forklift). Saliva tests are typically conducted randomly or upon reasonable suspicion (e.g. in the event of an accident or behavioral signs that indicate a worker is under the influence of alcohol while on the job).
Before making saliva alcohol testing a part of your organization’s alcohol & drug testing policy, check if local, state, and federal laws applicable in your area permit you to consider the test results as evidentiary. In many cases, employers conduct confirmation tests by evidentiary breath test (EBT) or blood sample test.
2. Breath Alcohol Test
Breath alcohol testing is conducted in two ways –
- Disposable or single-use breath test device/kit
- Evidentiary breath testing (EBTs)
Both of these alcohol screening methods are permitted in most jurisdictions. In the United States, these alcohol screening methods are also cleared under DOT (the US Department of Transport) regulations.
EBTs are quite popular and easy to use. They are often used in healthcare facilities. Since EBTs need to be calibrated from time to time to ensure they continue to provide accurate results, these devices should only be used by trained professionals. Employers considering the use of EBTs for alcohol screening in the workplace should have their personnel trained on how to use these devices.
Single-use breath test devices are cheaper than EBTs and provide almost instantaneous results. For many businesses, the time required to obtain test results is a serious consideration.
Depending upon the nature of business operations, you may need to further confirm results obtained from a disposable breath test device with an EBT or a blood test.
3. Blood Alcohol Test
Testing a blood sample is no doubt the most effective way to ascertain whether a person has consumed alcohol or an illicit drug. Blood test results cannot be easily contested.
But, blood alcohol testing also happens to be the most invasive alcohol screening method. Needless to say, it’s both time-consuming and expensive as well.
A blood test can only be administered by a trained professional such as a doctor, nurse, lab technician, or phlebotomist. These professionals know how to safely draw a blood sample.
Blood tests are not always used by businesses for periodic or random workplace alcohol screening. But, they are often used for post-accident alcohol testing. After a workplace accident, an affected worker may not be able to provide oral fluid or undergo a breath test.
The laws governing blood testing of workers vary across states. So, it is a good idea to consult an experienced lawyer before making it a part of your company’s workplace alcohol and drug testing policy.
4. Urine Alcohol Test
Urine tests are commonly deployed to screen workers for drug use. Some companies also test urine samples to detect alcohol use.
Urine alcohol tests may at times result in false positives as glucose may be present in the urine due to fermentation. Since ethanol is flushed out of the system after about 12 hours, a test result is likely to come negative.
So, this alcohol test is not considered reliable.
5. EtG/EtS Test
EtG/EtS testing offers a much longer detection window than all four alcohol tests discussed above. An increasingly large number of businesses now prefer EtG/EtS tests due to this very reason.
These tests are based on the detection of Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) – a metabolite of ethanol. This bio-marker can be detected in a urine or hair specimen for about 3 to 5 days. Unlike in case of traditional urine alcohol tests, you don’t have to worry about false positives when you use EtG urine dip cards for screening your workers.
Earlier, these tests could only be carried out in labs. Today, you can source instant EtG tests from reputed suppliers. These tests can provide results in as little as 5 or 10 minutes!