Employee Breath Alcohol Testing

Sure, alcohol is legal in the U.S. if you are over 21 years old, but do you want employees drinking before or during work? Breath alcohol testing is a simple method of determining whether an employee is under the influence while they are on the job.  Consider the following times to perform breath alcohol testing on employees.

  • Random Testing – a proven method of deterring alcohol use at work, random testing allows the employer to test the employee at any time.
  • Reasonable Suspicion – if you smell alcohol on your employee’s breath, or their behavior indicates they may be under the influence, it’s probably a good time to do a test.
  • Post Accident – anytime there is vehicle accident, it’s a great idea to eliminate the possibility of drug or alcohol use.

Workplace alcohol testing is mandatory for DOT employers and a strongly recommended practice for all businesses to increase safety and reduce Workers’ Compensation claims. DOT employers should refer to their workplace drug testing policy for when alcohol testing is required. An effective policy will outline the specific processes/requirements of alcohol testing.


The DOT requires alcohol testing in the following situations:

  • Post Accident (Accident defined by the DOT)
  • Reasonable Suspicion of Alcohol Use
  • Return to Duty (Before & After Returning to Work- Post Alcohol Violation)
  • Random- FAA, FMCSA, FTA & FRA

Alcohol within the body is measured in terms of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). A BAC of .02 and above is considered a positive result by the DOT. On average, the consumption of 2 or more alcoholic beverages within the hour prior to testing will result in a positive BAC of .02 or higher. Alcohol consumption approximately 24 hours prior to alcohol testing will result in a BAC of .000

Alcohol testing programs are mandated by U.S Congress for all transportation workers. Per DOT regulations, alcohol consumption can be detected in any form including:

  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Prescriptions
  • Over-the-Counter Medicine
  • Products Containing Alcohol
Alcohol Testing Devices

Alcohol testing is done using DOT approved instruments and devices which include:

Evidential Breath Testing (EBT): Tests the content of deep lung air

Saliva Testing: Tests the content of saliva

Breath Alcohol Testing Tubes: Tests the content of saliva

Results for both saliva and breath tube devices are read visually, if a positive occurs using either one of these the result must be confirmed by an EBT or Breathalyzer. The result given by the EBT is the one reported out.

Evidential Breath Testing devices:

  • Print the results of the test in triplicate
  • Provide a unique identifying number for each test
  • Print the EBT name, serial number, and time of test on each report
  • Ensure that the test detects only alcohol (no acetone)
  • Have the ability to verify proper instrument function

The following is a brief overview of alcohol testing steps:

If your company is federally mandated, you must have an understanding of the breath alcohol testing process as required by the Department of Transportation. A certified Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) completes alcohol testing in a private setting. Only breath devices approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are used for breath alcohol testing. All employees are required to show current, valid picture identification to the BAT prior to any test.

  1. To complete an alcohol test, the BAT first completes the Alcohol Test Form (ATF) along with the employee.
  2. The BAT selects, or allows the employee to select, a sealed mouthpiece which is opened and inserted into the testing device.
  3. The employee will be instructed to blow forcefully into the mouthpiece until an adequate amount of breath has been obtained (about 6 seconds).
  4. The BAT will then show the employee the result, print and affix the result to the AFT, and secure it with tamper evident tape.

Based on the result, there are different finishing steps. These steps will fulfill the federally-mandated Department of Transportation requirements, and are the recommended guidelines for any type of alcohol test.


Contact DISA for more information on employee breath alcohol testing. 

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