Alcohol or Alcoholism Screening In the Workplace


To prevent and detect alcohol or alcoholism in the workplace, many employers now perform a drug and alcohol test in the workplace. This helps to ensure a safe workplace for everyone, as alcohol in the workplace can contribute to many safety issues.





There are a number of different drug and alcohol test that can be performed:

  • The urine test. This is most common. It is easy to do and results are available within minutes. Urine tests commonly check for marijuana, opiates, methamphetamines, amphetamines, and cocaine. They can identify drug use for the past 30 days. They can also test for alcohol.
  • The saliva test. While this is less commonly used than the urine test, it is just as accurate. It is becoming more popular. It requires no special training to perform and results are available in minutes. A saliva test can check for the same drugs as a urine test, and also test for alcohol. Unlike urine tests, however, saliva tests can only identify drug use for the past several days.
  • Hair follicle test. This test is rarely done in the workplace due to the expense. However, it can identify drug use for the past 6 months, and is the most comprehensive drug test. It does not test for alcohol or alcoholism, however.
  • Breathalyzer. This is the test police officers often perform when a driver is suspected of being under the influence. It is seldom used in the workplace. It identifies currently intoxicated people only - it does not identify someone who has a drinking problem but is sober at the time the test is taken.
  • Blood test. A blood drug and alcohol test also identifies someone who is currently under the influence, in most cases. It is seldom used for workplace testing.

A workplace that does drug and alcohol testing should have a drug and alcohol test policy in place. The policy might specify testing for new hires, random tests, testing for any employee involved in workplace accidents, and/or testing upon “reasonable suspicion.” Employees should be made aware of the policy at the time of their hire, and it should be posted in a prominent place.

Many employers have a zero tolerance policy for alcohol or alcoholism or drug use in the workplace, and a positive result on an alcohol or drug test would result in immediate termination of employment. However, many other employers have employee assistance programs in place to help employees with substance abuse problems, including alcohol or alcoholism. These programs provide mental health and substance abuse counseling to employees and may provide referrals to other services as needed. Employee assistance programs (known as EAP’s) allow companies to retain good employees while maintaining safe and effective workplaces.

An EAP may also provide education to employees about substance abuse in the workplace and the dangers associated with it. They may also provide education to supervisors about how to recognize when employees may be using controlled substances and when a drug and alcohol test might be appropriate. The employee assistance program can be a valuable resource for a company. For smaller companies that may not have EAP’s, management can call in community resources (such as their local United Way) to provide some of these services.






More alcohol or alcoholism info on our alcoholism in the workplace page

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