When most people think of an alcohol breath test, they associate it with getting pulled over for drunk driving.  However, not only the police use the breath test.  This type of alcohol test is also used by certain employers, such as those who have companies where heavy equipment like trucks and cranes are used.  Really, any employer has the right to request an alcohol test if they have evidence to believe someone is coming into work drunk.  Maybe you are considering an alcohol breath test for your employees.  How exactly does a breath test work, though?  Here is everything you need to know about breath alcohol testing.

How Does an Alcohol Breath Test Work?

A breath test measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath.  It then uses this information to calculate how much alcohol is in that person’s bloodstream.  This is referred to as blood alcohol concentration, or BAC.  An alcohol breath test can show the BAC even though it is only collecting breath, not blood.  This works because exhaling is one of the ways alcohol leaves the body after being absorbed into the bloodstream and circulating through the lungs.

What Happens During a Breath Alcohol Test?

Most police officers and employers use an automatic alcohol test to measure BAC.  The machine itself is called a breathalyzer.  To take the test, a person blows into a mouthpiece.  An immediate reading of the blood alcohol content is given.  It is common to do multiple tests over a few minutes to make sure the reading is as accurate as possible.

There is also a manual breath test, which is less common.  If someone wanted to measure BAC for themselves at home, they might buy this type of alcohol test.  In a manual test, the person blows into a balloon and then releases the air into a glass tube.  Crystals in the tube change color depending on the BAC.

How Long After Drinking Does a Breath Test work?

Since alcohol is absorbed into the stomach and small intestine very quickly, blood alcohol concentration can be measured within minutes of someone having a drink, and it will register.  BAC is at its highest level around an hour after drinking.  Taking an alcohol test within 15 minutes of drinking may lead to an inaccurate, unusually high result due to the alcohol leftover in the mouth.  The alcohol breath test can detect alcohol in the bloodstream anywhere from five to thirteen hours after drinking, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. 

What Are the Legal Limits for BAC?

If someone is driving, pulled over, and given an alcohol breath test, they must have less than 0.08 percent BAC in order to pass in most states.  Utah requires drivers to have less than 0.05 percent blood alcohol concentration.  All states have a zero tolerance policy for minors, meaning than anyone under 21 with any BAC above zero could face charges.  These numbers are generally used by other companies as well.  If someone is too drunk to drive their car, they cannot perform their tasks at work properly either.

Need an Alcohol Test for the Workplace?

As a manager, one of your main priorities is keeping your employees safe.  Depending on your company, an alcohol breath test can be part of that.  Letting your workers know about your drug and alcohol policy and following through on it keeps your workplace safe and productive.

Soteria Screening Laboratories provides breath alcohol testing as well as many other types of drug and alcohol tests.  Call (202) 679-6670 or visit them online to learn more or to order a breath test for your company. 

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