Educating Employees About Breath Alcohol Myths and Misconceptions: Part Two
In last month’s published Part One of “Educating Employees About Breath Alcohol Myths and Misconceptions”, we touched on a few of the myths and misconceptions of breath alcohol testing. We also began laying the groundwork for raising employee awareness and confidence in the breath alcohol testing process. In this month’s blog article, we continue with several more myths and how to dispel them to employees.
The all-time most popular FAQ
For the 25+ years that we have had FAQs on AlcoPro’s website, the most popular question has consistently been “How Long after Drinking Alcohol Can We Detect It with a Breath Alcohol Tester?” We see it every Friday and Saturday night; we call it the “bar stool spike” as web traffic heavily increases to this FAQ posted in our Knowledge Base. The popularity of this FAQ suggests that educating employees on fundamental alcohol pharmacology should be a crucial training topic in a company’s substance abuse policy. Providing employees with a few simple facts about how alcohol is absorbed and eliminated goes a long way towards getting employees on board with the reasonableness of assisting them to know what they must do to comply with the substance abuse policy.
Here are some quick facts about alcohol:
- One drink will produce a BAC level of about 0.02 for an average size man.
- It takes more drinks for a larger person (by weight), and fewer drinks for a smaller person, to reach 0.02 BAC.
- It takes fewer drinks for women to reach the same BAC level than men.
- Alcohol is eliminated at the constant rate of about .015% BAC per hour, which is about one drink an hour.
- There is nothing a person can do – exercise, drink coffee – to speed up the rate of elimination of alcohol.
Here’s a scenario that can be extrapolated from these facts.
Can I have a glass or two of wine at dinner and pass a random alcohol test at work the next day?
A person who has two drinks at dinner will have a BAC level of .03 to .04, and will eliminate the alcohol from those drinks in two or three hours.
But there’s a limit on how many drinks one can have at dinner and be clear of alcohol the next day. If a person had enough drinks – 12 might do it – to have an alcohol level of 0.20 BAC, twice the legal limit for driving in most states, it would take over 13 hours for their alcohol level to reach zero after they stopped drinking. Assuming they stop drinking at midnight, it would be early afternoon the following day before their BAC would be at zero.
Of course, all DOT operating agencies have prohibitions on pre-duty use of alcohol ranging from four hours to eight hours. A knowledge of the facts of alcohol absorption and elimination helps employees understand the reasoning for these prohibitions.
DUI Defense Attorney: “Everyone knows that alcohol tests devices are not accurate.”
That’s a quote we’ve seen and heard in the news media from various DUI defense attorneys. We wonder how many readers take these comments with a grain of salt – acknowledging the exaggeration and hyperbole of such a statement – and how many readers accept such a statement on face value. We know today that statements like this, repeated often enough, begin to be accepted as fact by some people who have a proclivity to believe that information.
If you are a professional with responsibility for a company’s breath alcohol testing program you are well aware of the extensive measures taken by the breath alcohol testing technician and the employer to ensure the device is accurately reading test results. However, we find that employers don’t always share this information with their employees. At a minimum, a company might inform employees about these basics related to the accuracy of the testing device:
- A company must use an evidential device that meets requirements spelled out in DOT regulations, including appearing on the NHTSA Conforming Products List of Evidential Breath Testing Devices.
- An evidential breathalyzer must go through go through rigorous testing and evaluation for accuracy and precision before they are placed on NHTSA’s conforming products list.
- Every EBT appearing on NHTSA’s conforming products list has a prescribed Quality Assurance Plan which spells out requirements for periodic accuracy checks to verify the accuracy of the device, and specifies when the device must be calibrated.
Simply put, the breath alcohol technician is required to periodically conduct an accuracy check on the device and log the results in a log book. The log book serves to document the frequency and outcomes of the checks and can be called into a court of law as evidence to the fact of the device’s accuracy. We don’t suggest sharing with the employee the granular details about these quality checks, but possibly a high level overview of your company’s steps to check and document accuracy can put an employee at ease in a testing situation.
Employees are more likely to accept that a company’s alcohol testing program is accurate and reliable if a company makes an effort to dispel misconceptions and myths about alcohol testing. Companies must take alcohol testing seriously in order to get accurate, defensible results. Rigorously followed protocols, a well-trained staff and documentation are important if you are to inspire employee confidence and participation.