You may have heard of alcohol breath tests, but are you aware of how they work and who uses them? Do you know someone who has had a breath test or has administered one? If not, you may be unclear on how it actually works. 

Alcohol consumption results in the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream, which carries it to certain places in your body including your lungs. Alcohol breath tests or breathalyzers measure the amount of alcohol in the air a person breathes. Law enforcement and certain companies that require DOT registration often implement alcohol breath tests. 

How Do They Work?

After a person blows into the breath test device, the results display as a number, known as the blood alcohol concentration. The BAC number measures the level of alcohol in a person’s blood after taking the test. An exact measurement of the alcohol level can only be attained by a blood test. A blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher is considered legally drunk.

The time it takes for a person’s breath content to become elevated and the length of time it lasts relies on four different factors:

  • The person’s weight
  • How much alcohol a person has consumed
  • A person’s sex
  • The last time a person ate

Who Uses Alcohol Breath Tests?

Nowadays, most law enforcement officials administer breathalyzers. So when a police officer pulls over a person that they suspect is driving drunk, a breathalyzer is part of the DUI procedure that is performed. The coordination test is given first and it is usually the first indication of intoxication. 

The United States Department of Transportation requires some organizations to administer random drug and alcohol tests. These jobs require testing due to their more dangerous nature. These occupations provide a safe transportation and work environment for employees and the public. Some of these jobs include:

  • Trucking jobs
  • Railroad jobs
  • Aviation jobs
  • Pipeline jobs
  • Transit jobs
  • Maritime jobs

According to the USDT, a 0.04 equates to a positive alcohol breath test for these employees. If a person blows this level or higher they are required to be removed from the job. A result of 0.02 requires that the employee is removed from safety related tasks for a short period of time.

The United State Department of Transportation also mandates that potential employees of safety-sensitive jobs undergo a pre-employment alcohol screening. As such, applicants take the test before the employers offer them the position, and then again afterwards.

What Types of BAC Devices Are Available?

Alcohol breath tests can be electronic or manual. The manual breathalyzer test includes a balloon and a tube filled with crystals.When a person blows into the balloon the crystals will change color if the blood alcohol level is above 0.08%. Some occupations still use this style of the device due to the lower cost of the test.

Nowadays, workplaces use the electronic version of the BAC the most. Electronic breathalyzers report more accurate results than the manual version. However, technicians must recalibrate these machines often to increase and maintain accuracy. On the other hand, the electronic breathalyzer’s compact size makes it easier to carry. 

Any operator of a breath alcohol test must receive training and must pass a demonstration before they operate the device. For more information on implementing breath alcohol tests contact Soteria today. 

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