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It can be nerve-wracking for a BAT when the result of a Breath Alcohol Test is 0.02 or higher. Anytime a test result is positive, the BAT should know that the test will be placed under close scrutiny. Here are some tips to keep in mind about positive test results.  

  1. Be Prepared.

Positive alcohol tests are not common, and the best way to prepare for a positive test is to rehearse the situation multiple times. Every BAT must know exactly what will happen if the Screening Test is .020 or greater and have opportunities to witness the EBT go into and come out of the 15 minute wait countdown. Intoximeters is regularly asked to assist in the defense of positive test results where there have been errors due to lack of familiarity with procedures required for positive tests. Examples include BATs who abort the 15 minute wait period to perform an accuracy check before the Confirmation Test and inadequate logbook documentation of accuracy checks. Training is a Process, not an event. Periodic proficiency training is essential to being adequately prepared to handle obstacles and difficult collections.

  1. Be Careful of What You Say During the 15 Minute Wait Period.

Often even a quiet subject will become talkative during the 15 minute waiting period. BATs should exercise caution when conversing with the subject. Often both parties are under stress and the subject may misconstrue something the BAT has said. Your statements should be limited to “The regulations (or your company policies) require that you remain here with me for 15 minutes. Please do not eat, drink, smoke, chew or put anything in your mouth during this time. Try not to belch if possible. The wait period is for your benefit to prevent any mouth alcohol from affecting the Confirmation Test.”

The BAT should remember that a DOT breath alcohol test is a forensic test for employment purposes and is not a medical procedure. You are there to conduct the test according to a strict set of procedures to make sure that the test result is legally defensible. Your customer is the employer and the BAT should refer the subject to the DER with any questions about their result, consequences or why s/he was selected for testing.

We suggest that BATs keep a checklist of procedures in every testing room and use the wait period to review the checklist so you are prepared to conduct the Confirmation test. It can be helpful to have some old magazines at hand for the subject to peruse.

  1. Review Air Blank, Test Number, Result, and Printout.

49 CFR Part 40.253 specifies that the BAT must show the subject the result of the air blank conducted by the EBT, the unique number assigned to the test, and the test result shown on the display after the subject has provided a sample. These items come up on the display at different times during the Confirmation Test process and the BAT should be paying close attention to the instrument displays at all times.

The BAT also must show the employee their test number and test result on the printout as well. The EBT must print the test result either directly onto the ATF or onto a separate printout which is attached to the ATF in a tamper-evident manner.

It is important for the BAT to remember that the Confirmation Test is the final result. It is rarely the exact same number as the Screening Test and could be either higher or lower. It might even be negative!

One of the things we teach in our courses is to assume every alcohol test is going to be positive and that you are going to have to explain in detail how the test was performed. This forces the BAT to think about and remember obscure procedures before a problem situation occurs.

Register here (Workplace Training) for one of our Instructor classes to learn more about these and other tips as well as best practices for training Breath Alcohol Technicians.


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