Saturday, December 16, 2017

Alcohol on the Breath: What It Means

Yesterday, Zack from the welding shop came to work looking fine. It was a normal day of
list of myths supervisors maintain about alcohol on the breath
working on the new high rise building going up, and driving the 10 ton equipment truck to the job site.  Zack smelled like whiskey was emanating from his breath. But he appeared perfectly fine. Is this a situation that calls for a reasonable suspicion urine test? He looks great.

Zack's manager had just participated in DOT Supervisor Training.

Some alcoholics may come to work smelling of alcohol and if you ask if they were drinking in the parking lot or otherwise before coming to work, they will jump out of their chair and shout NO! And they are not lying. So what  explains alcohol on the breath?

Middle stage alcoholics with alcohol on the breath are either drinking at work, drinking just before coming to work, or still metabolizing alcohol from a drinking episode the night before.

Alcoholics with liver dysfunction may also drink larger quantities of alcohol, but their liver works inefficiently and processes alcohol much more slowly. You therefore smell the booze emanating from their pours.

Should alcohol on the breath signal the need for a reasonable suspicion test? Yes. But, here’s a point of interest. Alcohol on the breath in the United Kingdom cannot be a stand-alone reason for requiring a blood test. Do you know why? The answer is simple. 

The UK policy is build around three realities to address alcohol use in the UK. 1) 25% of the male workforce is alcoholic compared to the USA which is about 7%.; 2) Alcoholics typically have high tolerance, and many who are drunk are functioning to the degree that they may appear sober. 3) To keep the healthcare system from breaking down.

The truth is that acute chronic alcoholism is rampant in many countries so definitions are changed to make the acuity of the problem less pronounced.

Non-DOT Training for reasonable suspicion in other job categories must still be aware of the meaning of alcohol on the breath.

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