Breathalyzer Testing - Zero Tolerance Alcohol Policy

Posted by Brad Darnell on Sep 25th 2019

Breathalyzer Testing - Zero Tolerance Alcohol Policy

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center "Zero Tolerance" Alcohol Policy

Many treatment centers, clinics, and businesses worldwide have a "zero tolerance" alcohol policy. Often, alcohol use is prohibited and they test frequently to ensure compliance. However, when a BAC level above 0.00 shows up in the display of a breathalyzer it should not automatically be grounds for immediate action against the test subject be they a patient or employee.

A case in point would be an employee who tests at 0.01. Although this may be an indication that a trace amount of alcohol remains in their blood stream, by the time one would be able to administer an evidential alcohol test that level would likely be at 0.00 and the end results would not prove a violation of policy. Testing for employee compliance set by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is 0.02 BAC. This level of alcohol shows a clear violation that would be within the accuracy range of any DOT approved screening device that was calibrated accurately. It would then be much easier to justify an evidential alcohol test if the company deemed it appropriate.

It is practical for a treatment center to set a 0.01 level as the minimum level before causing a violation of zero tolerance alcohol policy as long as the breathalyzer used for testing has a 4 digit display. This way a test showing 0.009 would result in a negative test result. Breathalyzers with a 3 digit display could round the 0.009 to a 0.01 so it would not be advisable to set the level of tolerance at 0.01 when using a 3 digit display devise.  In that case a 0.02 would be the recommended zero tolerance threshold.

In the event a test results in a positive reading it is recommended that the subject be kept under observation for 15 minutes and then retested to ensure that the results are from deep-lung breath alcohol and not from mouth alcohol that could possibly be present from mouthwash.