By Sharon Bottcher
This information is provided for educational purposes only.  Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.

There are several alcohol testing options to consider for your business. Understanding the advantages of each method will assist in establishing a successful and effective program designed specifically to meet the needs and objectives of your testing program. Where and when alcohol testing is performed will depend on laws, the type of specimens used, the testing devices and the company’s goals and policies on workplace testing.

Where are alcohol tests conducted?

In general, an alcohol test is performed in a medical facility, a mobile unit, or a designated area within the company. Where exactly depends on the laws that apply in the state(s) where you operate. Most often, employers will send employees to a collection facility (off site) to perform the test or collect the specimen for the alcohol test. However, employers contemplating performing alcohol collections on company premises need to consider the following resources to perform such collections. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • A trained individual is required to collect certain specimens.
  • Safeguards must be taken, such as a designated area specific for specimen collections so that the collection can be completed in privacy without any direct visual observation by another person.
  • The requirement to have the same gender available to perform observed collections, if needed.
  • Storing and maintaining the appropriate devices and paperwork for collections.
  • Having the capability to collect for both drugs and alcohol.

Another option that is quite common is for an employer to perform an initial screen onsite using an instant alcohol testing device. The most common initial alcohol screen that is performed onsite is a saliva based test. Saliva testing is convenient and inexpensive and there is no “special” training or collection facility necessary to collect the sample. The only caveat that employers need to be aware of is the requirement to have a confirmatory test performed for any initial non-negative test results. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and various state laws require the confirmation test, typically breath or blood, to be performed as soon as possible, but not more than 30 minutes after the completion of the screening test. This is an important element in the planning of an alcohol testing program that must be taken into account before switching testing methods or implementing a new program.

When are alcohol tests conducted?

There are a variety of circumstances in which an employer may require an alcohol test. Following are the most common:

  • Reasonable Suspicion: Reasonable suspicion typically exists when an individual’s appearance, behaviour, speech, and/or body odours or other symptoms lead the employer to suspect an individual has used alcohol in violation the policy.
  • Post-Accident: Post-accident alcohol testing is performed after an incident occurs that meets the criteria established by the employer. Examples of criteria used by employers may include: fatalities; injuries that require anyone to be removed from the scene for medical care; damage to vehicles or property in general or above a specified monetary amount.
  • Return-to-Duty: Return-to-duty alcohol testing involves a one-time, announced test when an individual who has been removed from duties due to an alcohol violation (e.g., a positive test, refusal, adulteration, etc.) and has completed the required treatment for substance abuse and is ready to return to the workplace.
  • Follow-Up: Follow-Up alcohol testing is conducted periodically after an employee returns to the workplace upon completing rehabilitation for an alcohol problem. It is administered on an unannounced, unpredictable basis for a period of time specified in the drug-free workplace policy.

To err on the side of caution, employers currently testing or considering testing for alcohol in PreEmployment and/or Random situations should proceed with caution. It is suggested to discuss this process with legal counsel prior to including or continuing this practice. Proceeding with PreEmployment and Random alcohol testing could result in a claim being filed alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by either an employee or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Substantial damages could be awarded in such an action if a violation is found and, at a minimum, an employer would incur the expense of litigation. However, DOT-mandated alcohol testing, including random testing in some cases, is permitted regardless of the ADA’s restrictions.

Alcohol testing programs may be performed using a variety of specimen types such as urine, saliva, blood and breath. To successfully identity the most effective alcohol testing procedures, a careful review of the applicable laws along with considering each testing option’s advantages against the needs of the company’s testing program.

For more information about alcohol testing or policy updates, please contact the Current Consulting Group, LLC at 215-240-8204. Our knowledgeable and professional staff members welcome the opportunity to work with you.

(C) 2010-2018 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way full attribution to the author and copyright holder are required.

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