Employee Alcohol Testing

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Find out why employee alcohol testing is on the increase in the United States and what actual considerations are influencing employee alcohol testing in U.S. corporations, institutions, and companies.

And keep in mind that from a practical outlook, most of what applies to employee "alcohol testing" also applies to employee "drug and alcohol testing."

Types of Employee Alcohol Tests

There are essentially five different types of alcohol tests that are available for workplace alcohol testing protocols: alcohol breathalyzer tests (also called breath alcohol tests and alcohol breath tests), hair alcohol tests, alcohol blood tests (also called blood tests for alcohol or blood alcohol tests), saliva alcohol tests, and urine alcohol tests.

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It can be noted that hair alcohol testing is relatively recent. More precisely, until 2008, hair tests could not detect alcohol and were consequently used almost exclusively for testing for drugs other than alcohol.

Why Is Employee Alcohol Testing Increasing?

In more than a few states in the U.S., employee drug and alcohol testing is increasing due to the "drug-free workplace" movement; rising workers compensation premiums; frequently occurring, alcohol-related, on-the-job accidents, injuries, and deaths; and to poor production that is alcohol-related.

Employee Alcohol Testing and Employee's Privacy Rights

In many respects, employee alcohol testing is a balancing act between protecting employees' privacy rights on the one hand and addressing and trying to lessen alcohol-related productivity, fatalities, injuries, accidents, and violence issues on the other.

Interestingly, despite the fact that some states in actual fact do not recognize employee drug and alcohol testing, others, however, do permit company drug and alcohol testing if detailed procedural precautions are put into action.

Such safety measures, it might be noted, are instigated so that the testing is administered in a way that respects employees' rights of privacy.

For instance, the employment of closed-circuit cameras is not permitted to monitor relatively intrusive urine and blood alcohol testing protocols.

Required Alcohol Testing For Work-Related Accidents

In some states, employers have created mandatory alcohol and drug testing when an on-the-job accident has taken place.

If the testing procedure verifies that the employee was undeniably under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and that the employee's blood alcohol concentration was .08 grams or greater, in some states like Ohio, neither the employer nor workers compensation is duty-bound to pay for lost wages or for medical costs that resulted from the accident.

Stated more forcefully, if you live in Ohio and you incur injuries in an on-the-job accident that was established to be alcohol-related (at or above the .08 level) and you miss at least four weeks of work because of these injuries, in all probability you will not get any wage compensation for the time you missed either by your employer or by workers compensation.

Not only this, but if you have obtained medical rehabilitation for these injuries, again, neither workers compensation nor your employer is duty-bound to pay for this therapy.

The Justification For Employee Drug and Alcohol Testing

Having said this, it is essential to ask the following question: why are many employers initiating drug-free work environments and implementing alcohol testing in their places of employment?

Before listing these "reasons" it is imperative to call attention to the fact that the underlying reasons for employee "alcohol testing" also applies to the larger discussion of employee "drug and alcohol testing."

For example, the statement "alcohol tests create a safer work environment" from a wider standpoint can be restated to read as follows: "drug and alcohol tests create a safer work environment."

The following list illustrates some of the underlying reasons for employee alcohol testing:

  • Alcohol tests reduce employee turnover

  • Alcohol tests considerably upgrade the workforce by weeding out employees who refuse to get alcohol therapy and by removing prospective employees via required pre-hire drug and alcohol tests

  • Alcohol tests create a safer work environment

  • Alcohol tests increase worker productivity

  • Alcohol tests decrease employee sexual harassment

  • Alcohol tests reduce employee theft

  • Alcohol tests decrease spending due to the fact that worker's compensation offers premiums if employers originate random drug and alcohol testing

  • Alcohol tests decrease employee violence

  • Alcohol tests diminish on-the-job alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and deaths

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Conclusion: Employee Alcohol Testing

In various states, organizational alcohol testing is escalating due to costly, debilitating, and at times, deadly alcohol-related, on-the-job accidents and injuries; alcohol-related work inefficiency; and mounting workers compensation premiums. Not an insignificant number of drug and alcohol testing facts and statistics reinforce the reasons for more alcohol testing in organizations by U.S. employers.

Furthermore, required testing for work-related accidents has resulted in situations in which employees did not receive work compensation or compensation for medical therapy by their employers or by workers compensation when they were tested and found to be under the influence of alcohol (at the .08 or higher lever) at the time of a work-related accident.

It is imperative to note that whereas the focal point of the above discussion was on employee alcohol testing and alcohol testing in the workplace, from a conceptual orientation, most of what applies to employee "alcohol testing" also applies to employee "drug and alcohol testing."

For example, the statement "alcohol tests increase worker productivity" can be expanded to read as follows: "drug and alcohol tests increase worker productivity."

It also needs to be pointed out that whereas law enforcement officers seem to prefer administering a breath alcohol test such as a breathalyzer in the field, most employers use urine alcohol tests to test their employees in the workplace.

Based on the many alcohol-related problems that can and do arise in companies, institutions, and corporations, employee drug and alcohol testing is likely to continue and plausibly increase in the foreseeable future.

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