While marijuana and other illicit drugs get all the hype when it comes to drug testing, alcohol remains the most commonly addictive substance in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 15 million people in the U.S. are dependent on alcohol. And much like drug use, alcohol abuse is not just a private matter that remains confined to an individual’s home. Alcohol abuse costs employers, individuals and communities billions of dollars annually, which means effective alcohol testing in the workplace is a critical tool to ensure your workplace is safe from the harmful effects of alcohol use and abuse.
Why is alcohol testing essential?
One of the biggest dangers surrounding alcohol abuse, aside from the health issues, is that alcoholism can affect a person’s finances, health, and personal, social and family life. In turn, each of these issues can trickle back into the workplace as they impact the employee’s home life.
Compounding these issues and their impact on productivity, attendance, performance and healthcare costs, is the use of alcohol in the workplace. As with drug use, employees who are under the influence of alcohol tend to create an unsafe work environment and are the cause of many other issues that affect a company’s bottom line. Alcohol use and abuse is an issue that should not be ignored and is most certainly a necessary component of any company’s drug and alcohol testing program.
Mandatory alcohol testing regulations
Workplace alcohol testing is an effective tool for the detection of alcohol use, and it is also a powerful deterrent for preventing alcohol use. Therefore, the federal government established regulations that require employers who fall under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations to conduct mandatory alcohol testing.
The State of Washington, however, does not have a mandatory alcohol testing law (except for federal/D.O.T. employees), but employers are encouraged to implement an alcohol testing policy, particularly for safety-sensitive positions.
Holders of commercial driver’s license driving commercial motor vehicles are deemed to have given consent and are therefore subject to mandatory drug and alcohol testing. Law enforcement officers may administer the tests for reasonable cause, and refusal to undergo testing is a basis for disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle. Employers with drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles are required to have a compliant drug or alcohol testing program, and must report employees who refuse to submit to required testing to law enforcement or the employer’s medical review officer.
Including alcohol testing as part of your company’s drug policy offers undeniable benefits to both employers, employees and the community. What is not so clear-cut is understanding the requirements established by federal and state laws. So if you have questions about how to implement an alcohol testing policy, or just want to make sure your existing policy is up to snuff, give Worker Care a call. We’re always happy to answer questions and help you navigate the confusing world of drug and alcohol testing.