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Alcohol Testing In The Workplace

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Why is alcohol testing increasing in U.S companies, organizations, and institutions?

What particular factors are influencing workplace alcohol testing in today's business world?

According to the substance abuse literature, workplace alcohol testing is increasing in many states in the U.S. due to the following:

  • Frequently occurring alcohol-related injuries, fatalities, and accidents.

  • Rising workers compensation premiums.

  • Alcohol related sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

  • Alcohol-related work inefficiency.

  • Because of the "drug-free workplace" movement.

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Employee's Privacy Rights and Alcohol Testing

To a great extent, alcohol testing in the workplace is a delicate compromise between protecting employees' privacy rights on the one hand and addressing and trying to reduce alcohol-related accidents, injuries, fatalities, violence, and productivity issues on the other.

When discussing workplace drug and alcohol testing one item of note is that the laws and workers compensation policies and procedures related to employee drug and alcohol testing are not uniform in all of the sates.

For example, whereas some states prohibit employee drug and alcohol testing altogether, other states, to the contrary, permit drug and alcohol testing if highly specific policies and procedures are in place that safeguard employee privacy.

A case in point is that the use of closed-circuit cameras is not permitted to monitor relatively intrusive blood and urine alcohol testing protocols.

Mandatory Testing For Work-Related Accidents

Some states permit employers to develop and implement mandatory drug and alcohol testing procedures that take effect when a work-related accident has taken place.

If the alcohol test confirms that the worker was in fact under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and that the worker's blood alcohol concentration was .08 grams or more, in states such as Ohio, neither workers compensation nor the employer is constrained to pay for medical treatment or lost wages associated with the accident.

Stated differently, if an individual is injured at work in an accident that was verified by an alcohol test to be alcohol-related (at or above the .08 blood alcohol concentration level), and this individual has received medical treatment for these injuries, neither workers compensation nor the employer is required to pay for this treatment.

In a similar manner, if a person misses six weeks of work because of these injuries, he or she will not receive any compensation for the salary he or she has lost either by workers compensation or by the employer.

The Rationale For Workplace Alcohol Testing

Let us cut to the chase and zero in on the key issue regarding alcohol testing, namely, why are so many employers resorting to alcohol testing in their companies and organization?

The following represents some of the important reasons for workplace alcohol testing by employers.

  • Alcohol tests reduce employee sexual harassment.

  • Alcohol tests reduce employee turnover.

  • Alcohol tests reduce spending due to the fact that worker's compensation offers reduced premiums if employers initiate random drug and alcohol testing.

  • Alcohol tests increase worker productivity.

  • Alcohol tests significantly upgrade the workforce by weeding out employees who refuse to get alcohol treatment and by eliminating prospective employees via mandatory pre-hire drug and alcohol tests.

  • Alcohol tests reduce on-the-job alcohol-related accidents.

  • Alcohol tests reduce employee violence.

  • Alcohol tests create a safer work environment.

  • Alcohol tests reduce employee theft.

Types of Workplace Alcohol Tests

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

It can be highlighted that hair alcohol testing is relatively recent.

More to the point, until 2008, hair tests could not detect alcohol and were therefore used mainly for testing for drugs other than alcohol.

Conclusion: Alcohol Testing in The Workplace

Throughout the U.S., workplace drug and alcohol testing is increasing due to costly, debilitating, and at times, fatal alcohol-related, on-the-job injuries and accidents; alcohol-related work inefficiency; and mounting workers compensation premiums.

Many drug and alcohol testing facts and statistics support the rationale for increasing alcohol testing by U.S. employers.

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Furthermore, mandatory testing for on-the-job accidents has resulted in instances where workers were not awarded compensation from their employers or from workers compensation for medical treatment they received and for work they missed due to a work-related accident for which an alcohol test verified that they under the influence of alcohol (at the .08 or higher lever).

Based on the many alcohol-related issues and difficulties that can and do take place in the workplace, drug and alcohol testing, more likely than not, will continue perhaps increase in the coming years.

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