What is a Breath Alcohol Test?
A breath alcohol test is a standardized assessment that involves a subject providing a breath sample via a breathalyzer that gauges relative blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels at or below the 0.02 baseline value.
On the surface, a breath alcohol test is beneficial in curtailing the number of alcohol-related accidents/incidents, or near-miss scenarios, that often impose economic burdens for employers. In Canada, however, the issue of companies regulating alcohol testing procedures against the protection of human rights laws creates a stalemate in fostering a drug and alcohol-free climate. Depending on the circumstances, employers can conduct breath alcohol tests oriented around safety-sensitive positions where recent alcohol use may serve as valid evidence for impaired judgment in work-related cases that can result in significant liability.
In a non-safety-sensitive environment, employers may invoke bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR), which is a legal stipulation that draws on the inference of proving that chronic alcohol use contributes to hazardous job performance based on test findings. However, the application of the BFOR guideline presents nuanced loopholes in which alcohol dependency is a legitimate disability; thus, a positive test result may compel employers to take disciplinary action against possible discrimination suits. After submitting to a breath alcohol test, if an individual surpasses the 0.020 cutoff threshold, a breath alcohol technician will perform confirmatory testing via an evidential breath-testing device for comparative analysis to the original test results.
Employers should consider enlisting third party counsel to assist with interpreting federal laws along with different provincial and territorial rules that cover the framework for breath alcohol tests when drafting health and safety policies.