Alcohol Testing Policy

Posted: Feb, 7th 2019



Opioids and drugs are a familiar topic when discussing how to implement a drug and alcohol testing policy. The policy that can be confusing to employees and even some employers is the need for an alcohol testing policy. How individuals interpret alcohol use and the role it plays in safety is often overlooked by the current opioid epidemic.  According to NIH (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) statistics an estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Alcohol is a substance that can cause impairment much earlier than what a consumer might think. Many states list blood alcohol concentration levels for impairment at .08%. The effects alcohol can have on an individual start at a much lower BAC level. The CDC lists the following information as a guideline to understand levels of impairment. Information in this table shows the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at which the effect usually is first observed.




Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)*

Typical Effects

Predictable Effects on Driving

.02% About 2 alcoholic drinks**

  • Some loss of judgement
  • Relaxation
  • Slight body warmth
  • Altered mood
  • Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target)
  • Decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)

.05% About 3 alcoholic drinks**

  • Exaggerated behavior
  • May have loss of small- muscle control (e.g. focusing eyes)
  • Impaired judgement
  • Usually good feeling
  • Lowered alertness
  • Release of inhibition


  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced ability to track moving objects
  • Difficulty steering
  • Reduced response to emergency driving

.08% About 4 alcoholic drinks**

  • Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g. balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing)
  • Harder to detect danger
  • Judgement, self- control, reasoning, and memory are impaired
  • Concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Speed control
  • Reduced information processing capability (e.g. signal detection, visual search)
  • Impaired perception

.10% About 5 alcoholic drinks**

  • Clear deterioration of reaction time and control
  • Slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking
  • Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately

.15% About 7 alcoholic drinks**

  • Far less muscle control than normal
  • Vomiting may occur
  • Major loss of balance
  • Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing


*Blood Alcohol Concentration Measurement

The number of drinks listed represents the approximate amount of alcohol that a 160-pound man would need to drink in one hour to reach the listed BAC in each category.

**A Standard Drink Size in the United States

A standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

A business is directly impacted by the choices its employees make. Having an impaired employee jeopardizes the health and safety of everyone involved. In addition to overall safety, insurance ratings and company morale can be affected too.  There are numerous factors to consider when implementing an alcohol policy. One of the most important factors is that the employees are more likely to accept a company’s alcohol policy if the program is accurate and reliable. A well trained staff, rigorously followed protocols, and specific documentation will ensure that a company has accurate and defensible results.

If a company is regulated by DOT (Department of Transportation) alcohol testing is not optional. The DOT randomly checks for 10% of a company’s workforce on an annual basis. In addition to random alcohol tests there is an option for DOT and NON-DOT companies to conduct reasonable suspicion alcohol testing if it is specifically listed in the company’s drug and alcohol policy. Reasonable suspicion alcohol testing can be an alternative or an addition to random testing for companies not overseen by the DOT. Alcohol metabolizes faster than drugs do and if an employee is showing sign of impairment having a solid policy in place and a trained representative from the company is necessary to ensure that legally everything is done correctly.

If you would like to find out more information about how to implement a reliable and legal alcohol testing policy.