The best breathalyser for the job?

The best breathalyser for the job?

Workplace alcohol testing ensures that machine operators, drivers, and workers in general are safe and sober while doing their jobs. The benefits should be obvious, including a reduced risk of alcohol-related accidents, cost savings from eliminating damage to machines and company property, and protecting on-site workers and drivers from potentially fatal incidents. There are a few things for companies to consider, however, before choosing an appropriate alcohol breathalyser. 

“Breathalysers used to be expensive, difficult to obtain, and only accessible to law enforcement and governments,” explains Angus MacArthur, director of Alcohol Breathalysers. He adds that over the past decade, breathalysers have become more durable, easier to manufacture, and more affordable, while their accuracy has simultaneously increased. “Now, even consumers are able to access breathalysers due to lower pricing, and there is a wide range available, from personal alcohol testers right up to law enforcement breathalysers.”

The market isn’t without its challenges, though. MacArthur highlights the fact that while pricing has come down around the world, our local pricing is going up, as most breathalysers are manufactured abroad so the local cost is dependent on exchange rates.

Testing equipment, meanwhile, is facing another challenge. “With higher use of breathalysers, they are being overburdened and require servicing more often. Operators of breathalysers often manhandle equipment and break breathalysers, especially when they are not trained properly,” MacArthur points out.

Alcohol Breathalysers can help clients to overcome these challenges. “With pricing, we are hedging and working with manufacturers to produce more stock ahead of time, thus reducing costs per unit. Regarding 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,” he continues.

MacArthur adds that the ideal ratio between a company’s number of employees and the number of breathalysers they need is site-dependent: “It depends on whether random, voluntary, or mandatory alcohol testing – or a combination of these – is implemented at any given site,” he explains.

“For evidentiary-type alcohol testing, just one machine per site is required. For mandatory entrance point testing, if hundreds of staff, visitors and contractors have to be tested daily, then high-speed industrial breathalysers such as our iBlow10 (handheld) or 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.”

MacArthur recommends that when using fixed entrance breathalyser systems, five to 10 industrial machines are needed at any given entry point for daily testing of between 500 and 1 000 people: “This ensures 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 required and, again, the number would depend entirely on the number of staff tested daily,” he expands, stating that for mandatory alcohol testing, at least one industrial handheld breathalyser should be used for every 50 staff members to be tested daily.

“While this is the ideal ratio, 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, which adheres to our strict hygiene guidelines,” he says.

MacArthur adds that if employers want to speed up the testing process, they should install an automated Alcoscan EBS, such as the EBS010, on their turnstile gates. “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,” he explains.

“A situation where humans hold breathalysers relies upon people interacting, interpreting, and making judgments based on displayed results. Automatic breathalysers that interface with turnstile gate controllers simply provide a pass or fail based on any amount of alcohol being detected in exhaled breath. It’s the fastest breathalyser solution available,” he continues.

When it comes to evidentiary-type breathalyser testing, MacArthur says that a breathalyser such as Alcoscan ALP-1 would be suitable to store test results in memory, print them out immediately, and provide a result that can be used later, if required, in Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration cases. “For high-speed handheld testing, our iBlow10 would be suitable, as it can perform 12 tests per minute,” he notes.

MacArthur emphasises that alcohol testing equipment is becoming more technologically advanced and yet simpler to operate. “Consumers are now able to test themselves before they drive their vehicles or enter workplaces using their own personal breathalysers. They can share their test results with their families, friends, and colleagues, who will be able to assist them if they are not safe to drive or work. For companies, with the technological improvements in breathalysers, such as improved accuracy, combined with photos at the point of testing, and ID- and location-based linked alcohol testing, the results provided are more useful to organisations and employees,” he notes.

“In the end, improvements in alcohol testing equipment are resulting in more lives saved and more 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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