Alcohol Testing in the Workplace: an Employer’s Choice

There are many different types of alcohol testing. From the breathalyzer to intensive urine alcohol testing or hair alcohol testing,  there are many ways employers can get the information they are seeking. Here is a brief overview of several different types of alcohol testing.

Blood Alcohol Test

A blood alcohol test measures the amount of ethanol in the body. This type of test can be very useful in determining the amount of alcohol in the blood when someone is suspected of being intoxicated; it may be used to find the cause of an altered mental state. When a situation exists where alcohol is prohibited, this test may be used to determine whether or not the consumption of alcohol has taken place.

Urine Alcohol Test

Urine alcohol tests are simply not as accurate as other forms of alcohol testing. While a urine test can show the amount of alcohol in the body, it does not show the person’s present condition. Since it takes several hours for the alcohol to pass through the body, the test will not be an accurate indication of their present state. Further, this test can vary widely based on a person’s metabolism.  This type of testing is also not helpful in the case of an emergency, because it takes hours for a lab to test and deliver the results.

Hair Alcohol Test

Hair Alcohol Tests can get results that a regular blood alcohol test cannot. It is simple and accurate and requires only a small bit of hair. You might see a blood alcohol test being used on a person who is intoxicated, like a drunk driver that gets pulled over. While this may be effective in the moment, alcohol is quickly lost in the blood because it breaks down so quickly. In the hair, however, tiny traces of alcohol metabolite are trapped and save an alcohol history in its roots. Each half inch of head hair provides a 30-day history of alcohol use. This can allow employers to examine a person’s alcohol use over a period of months rather than days or even hours.

Whether employers continue to simply do a background check or progress to both drug testing and alcohol testing, one thing is certain: It has an effect on their bottom line.  While minor drug and alcohol use may not seem to impact employers, it starts to take a toll when their employees are missing work.  While a short-term effect may just be one missed day of work and a bad hangover, this may progress to a weakened immune system, meaning more missed work, more doctors visited and increased healthcare costs. Healthcare costs are already on the rise, and employers and already looking for ways in which to decrease them. Perhaps in the future they will look toward drug testing and alcohol testing as a solution or at least a step in becoming more drug and alcohol free.

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