The impact of alcoholism and drug dependence in the workplace often focuses on four major issues:
- Premature death/fatal accidents
- Injuries/accident rates
- Absenteeism/extra sick leave
- Loss of production
Two specific kinds of drinking behavior significantly contribute to the level of work performance problems: drinking right before or during working hours (including drinking at lunch and at company functions), and heavy drinking the night before that causes hangovers during work the next day.
Types of Testing Available
USAMDT of Northeast Ohio offers two types of alcohol testing:
- Breath alcohol testing
- Oral fluids (saliva) testing
Breath alcohol testing measures the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that may be present in a person’s system. Using a breathalyzer that conforms to DOT standards, an initial screening test is conducted. If the BAC is above the company’s limit for alcohol, the technician will wait fifteen minutes and conduct a second confirmation test. The fifteen-minute waiting period will eliminate the presence of mouthwash, for example, as that alcohol will dissipate during the waiting period. This is an extremely accurate process for measuring the BAC, and all USAMDT Breath Alcohol Technicians (BAT’s) are trained and certified to DOT standards through Lifeloc.
If a breathalyzer is not available, a quick alcohol saliva test can also be conducted for screening purposes. If the presence of alcohol exists, the saliva test should be followed up with a breathalyzer for confirmation (and is absolutely required by the DOT).
Finally, alcohol can be detected in a urine alcohol test. The difference with this type of drug screening test (referred to as ETG) is that this may show that alcohol had been consumed previously (up to a few days), and does not necessarily reflect current use or impairment. Therefore, this alcohol drug screen testing is recommended for court or probationary testing, where complete abstinence is required.
- Workers with alcohol problems were 2.7 times more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury-related absences.
- A hospital emergency department study showed that 35 percent of patients with an occupational injury were at-risk drinkers.
- Analyses of workplace fatalities showed that at least 11% of the victims had been drinking.
- Large federal surveys show that 24% of workers report drinking during the workday at least once in the past year.
- One-fifth of workers and managers across a wide range of industries and company sizes reported that a coworker’s on- or off-the-job drinking jeopardized their own productivity and safety.