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June 1998, Vol. 121, No. 6
Workplace alcohol-testing programs: prevalence and trends
Tyler D. Hartwell,
Paul D. Steele, and Nathaniel F.
the beginning of the industrial era, employers have been
concerned about the costs and consequences of
inappropriate alcohol consumption by workers on and off
the job. "By far the most common of the drugs that
can affect work performance is ethanol (alcoholic
beverages)," according to the Institute of Medicine.1 Many studies have
shown that both heavy drinking over time and the misuse
of alcohol in safety-sensitive situations have had
significant negative effects on worker productivity and
health, and on employer costs and profits.2 As a consequence,
several strategies have emerged to control this behavior.
Modern interventions include occupational alcoholism
programs and their successors; employee assistance
programs, health promotion programs, and education and
- In the 1980s, impairment testing programs
also became a popular workplace method to address
substance misuse.3 Testing programs are primarily intended to
detect the use of illicit drugs, but also are used in
many worksites to detect inappropriate ethanol use among
- This article describes the prevalence and
characteristics of alcohol-testing programs in U.S.
worksites. The data are derived from two national
prevalence surveys of worksites. These surveys were
conducted in 1993 and 1995 with support from the National
Institute on Drug Abuse. We present national prevalence
estimates of alcohol-testing programs for job applicants
and current employees. Prevalence is presented by
worksite size (number of employees), type of industry,
and census region. For programs that test current
employees, these estimates are given for both 1993 and
1995. We then compare the prevalence of alcohol- and
drug-testing programs for applicants and current
employees in 1995. We also describe employee and worksite
characteristics by alcohol-testing prevalence at the
worksite. Finally, we present alcohol-testing prevalence
by type of testing program, testing method, and
organizational unit responsible for testing. (For a
description of the methodology, see appendix.)
This excerpt is from an article published in
the June 1998 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full
text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable
Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for
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1 J. Normand, R. O. Lempert, and C. P. OBrien,
eds., Under the Influence: Drugs and the American Workforce
(Washington, National Academy Press, 1994), p. 191.
2 B. C. Alleyne, P. Stuart, and R. Copes, "Alcohol
and other drug use in occupational fatalities," Journal
of Occupational Medicine, vol. 33, 1991, pp. 496500; R.
W. Hingson, R. I. Lederman, and D.C. Walsh, "Employee
drinking patterns and accidental injury: a study of four New
England states," Journal of Studies on Alcohol, vol.
46, 1985, pp. 298303; R. J. Lewis and S. P. Cooper,
"Alcohol, other drugs, and fatal work-related
injuries," Journal of Occupational Medicine, vol. 31,
1989, pp. 2328; and H. M. Trice and P. M. Roman, Spirits
and Demons at Work (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University
3 For example, see Howard V. Hayghe, "Anti-drug
programs in the workplace: are they here to stay?" Monthly
Labor Review, April 1991, pp. 2629.
Related BLS programs
BLS does not have any programs that directly relate to
the topic of this article.
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of drug testing in the workplace. November 1996.
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stay? April 1991.
- Substance abuse coverage provided by employer medical
plans. April 1991.
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