Wrong Assumptions About Alcohol Testing
Breath-alcohol testing determines the ratio of blood-alcohol in the body (expressed through the breath sample). The reading produced by the device describes the levels most of us are familiar with; “0.02” or “.08”, many of which are written into state, workplace, and local laws. The levels in the USDOT regulations use the same scale.
What is wrong about the assumptions comes from the idea that one serving of alcohol will produce a result of .02, and that other extrapolations can be made from the reading on the device. Using simple division to determine the number of drinks someone consumed is a speculative waste of time. Employers should only be concerned with the confirmed result on a NHTSA-approved testing device, and not attempt to forensically determine the consumption profile of an employee.
If an employee produces a breath specimen of .04, some may assume that it was the result of two drinks. However, that result could be because the employee just consumed five drinks and the breath test is only registering the initial absorption, meaning that the alcohol level will be rising. The test may also be detecting a decline in alcohol as it is being metabolized, meaning that earlier, the level would have been higher.
Rely on the confirmed results only, and leave the consumption profile speculation to the substance abuse professional or EAP.
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