The A to Z of alcohol testing

The A to Z of alcohol testing

Alcohol testing in workplaces should be conducted to ensure that machine operators, drivers and workers are sober so they can do their jobs safely. We speak to Angus MacArthur, director of Alcohol Breathalysers PTY LTD, who provides tips on how to ensure a speedy testing process.

The benefits of on-site alcohol testing include: reducing the risk of alcohol-related accidents; increased productivity of the workforce (by ensuring that workers are not under the influence of alcohol while on the job); cost savings in terms of damage to machines and company property; and, ultimately, saving the lives of workers and drivers.

What is the ideal ratio between a company’s number of employees and the amount of breathalysers they need?

An ideal ratio depends on whether random, voluntary or mandatory alcohol testing (or a combination of the three) is implemented.

For evidentiary-type alcohol testing, just one machine is required per site.

For mandatory entrance-point testing – if hundreds of staff, visitors and contractors have to be tested daily – high-speed industrial breathalysers, such as the company’s iBlow10 (handheld), or its Alcoscan entrance breathalyser systems (EBS) (a fixed system), are required. These can perform tens of thousands of tests within a six- to 12-month calibration cycle.

When 500 to 1 000 people need to be tested daily using fixed entrance breathalyser systems, we recommend that between five and 10 industrial machines would be needed at any given entry point, to ensure that long queues don’t build up every day and that breathalyser machines are not overburdened.

If handheld breathalysers are used for random alcohol testing procedures, fewer machines would be installed and, again, the number would depend entirely on the number of staff tested daily.

If handheld breathalysers are used for mandatory alcohol testing, at least one industrial breathalyser would be needed for up to 50 staff. Two would be required for 50 to 100 staff, and two to four would be required for 100 to 200 staff.

The ideal ratio would be one industrial breathalyser for every 50 persons to be tested daily. Another factor would be whether a company wants to test employees with a breathalyser that requires a mouthpiece. During the Covid pandemic paper straws can be used, for both fixed and handheld equipment. These adhere to our strict hygiene guidelines.

What could employers do to speed up the testing process?

Employers should install automated Alcoscan EBS, such as the EBS010, on their turnstile gates if they want to speed up the testing process.

The EBS010 provides a four-second test procedure – one second to warm up, one to blow, one to display the result and trigger a release for the turnstile gate to open (or remain closed), and one second to reset for the next test.

This system is ideal for manufacturing, mining and other industrial sites, as it speeds up alcohol testing procedures and reduces long-term calibration expenses.

How has testing equipment changed over the years?

Breathalysers used to be expensive, difficult to obtain and only accessible by law-enforcement and governments – but, in the last decade, they have become more accurate, more durable, easier to manufacture and, most importantly, more affordable due to higher demand worldwide. Now even consumers are able to access breathalysers due to lower pricing.

What challenges do testing equipment and equipment providers face?

Most breathalysers are manufactured abroad, so local pricing is dependent on exchange rates. While pricing has come down around the world, our local pricing in South Africa fluctuates due to the rand to dollar exchange rate. With the higher use of breathalysers, they are being overburdened and require servicing more often. Operators of breathalysers, especially when they are not trained properly occasionally manhandle equipment.

How are you overcoming these problems?

With pricing we are hedging and working with manufacturers to produce more stock ahead of time, thus reducing costs per unit. In regard to overuse and manhandling of breathalysers we regularly provide training. We are employing more staff to assist customers and provide support – ensuring that products are serviced more often.

And what does the future hold for alcohol testing equipment?

Alcohol testing equipment is becoming more accessible, due to reduced pricing, more technologically advanced and simpler to operate. Consumers are now able to test themselves before they drive their vehicles or enter workplaces using their own personal breathalysers.

For companies, with the technological improvements in breathalysers – such as improved accuracy, combined with photos at point of testing, ID and location-based linked alcohol testing – the results provided are more useful to companies and employees.

In the end, improvements in alcohol testing equipment result in more lives being saved, efficient cost-savings and risk reductions for companies, law-enforcement, drivers and consumers in general.  

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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