Know the Signs: When to Test for Alcohol in Employees

It has been reported that Alaska has one of the highest rates of binge drinking in the country. Past studies by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have estimated that roughly 1 in 4 adults in Alaska reported binge drinking within the past month. 

Alcohol abuse in a work environment can result in increased absences, decreased productivity, and workplace injuries. Because of these risks, many employers give alcohol tests to job applicants to show that they don’t allow any kind of alcohol abuse at work. Refusal to submit to alcohol testing can be a “red flag” to employers.

Alcohol tests are a type of screening test used to measure how much alcohol is in your body. There are many reasons to test for alcohol abuse as an employer, and they’re often included in many types of pre-employment health screenings. Some employers even require routine alcohol tests.

Types of alcohol tests:

Electronic Breath-Alcohol Testing

Electronic breath alcohol testing is more often referred to as a breathalyzer test. During this type of alcohol test, you blow into a mouthpiece.

A breath alcohol test measures how much alcohol is in the air you breathe out. It shows the current levels of impairment or intoxication. Unlike drug testing, alcohol breath tests do not show past use. The device used in a breath alcohol test measures how much alcohol content is in the blood. If you have a blood alcohol content of 0.2 or above, it means that you have a positive result. At MedPhysicals Plus we use the electronic Breath-Alcohol test. MedPhysicals Plus uses an intoximeter, which is known as the leading provider of Breath-Alcohol testing, since 1945. 

Manual breath alcohol testing

Like the electronic breath alcohol test, the manual breath alcohol test also requires you to breathe into a tube. However, the manual test isn’t connected to an electronic reader. Rather, you blow into a balloon. You then release the air from the balloon into a glass tube filled with crystals.

Source: Mount Sinai

Electronic tests use fuel cell sensors that are able to accurately measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath. Smoking, drinking before a test,  and even mouthwash can impact the accuracy of the tests. It is important to pay attention to the examiner’s instructions before being administered this test. 

Why alcohol testing matters

It is important for employers to make sure that all job applicants are safe and wouldn’t do anything dangerous to themselves or others if they were hired. Accurate alcohol testing can play a big role in determining an employee’s “readiness to work”.

The consumption of two or more alcoholic beverages within the hour prior to your breath alcohol test will result in a “positive” for blood alcohol content. Binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more drinks on one occasion for women.

Here are a few signs that indicate an employee may be suffering from alcohol addiction or abuse: 

  • Sweating, shaking, or the smell of alcohol on breath 
  • Unusual slowness 
  • Anger or irritation 
  • The person is late or absent more than usual 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Drinking on the job
  • Drinking multiple days a week

If any of these signs are seen at work, it may be necessary to talk to the person about it and get them help from a professional. It is better to help the employee than to ignore the warning signs.

MedPhysicals Plus has certified breathalyzer technicians standing by to keep your workforce safe and responsible. Using our accurate tools, we can find out exactly how much alcohol is in a person’s blood. We have many different reporting and randomizer tools that we can use to make an alcohol testing program that fits your needs.

Learn more about our employer services by sending us a DM, by calling us at (907) 561-7587, or by visiting our website at