Conducting breath alcohol tests is the easiest and most cost-effective way to identify employees’ recent alcohol consumption before they start working. Due to the high volume of tests required and to comply with the company’s alcohol and drug testing policy, personal breathalysers might not be suitable for workplace use. To ensure reliable and efficient breath alcohol testing for employees on-site, there are 7 criteria you should look into when choosing a breathalyser for workplace alcohol testing.
Accuracy of the sensor
Whether your company has a zero-tolerance policy or allows low breath alcohol concentration, results from the breathalyser must be accurate in order to carry out the company’s alcohol and drug testing policy objectively. Compared to semiconductor sensors, fuel cell sensors in breathalysers are able to pick up a low level of breath alcohol down to 3 decimal places. With regular calibration, sensors will last longer and perform with stability.
Besides the sensors for detecting breath alcohol concentration, the breathalysers should have a built-in flow sensor. This is to make sure that enough exhaled air is blown into the breathalysers for the breath alcohol concentration measurement of the deep lung air. The results would be considered accurate only if the alcohol concentration of deep lung air is measured.
There are generally two testing modes in breathalysers — passive testing and specific testing. Passive testing displays a fast pass or fail result where employees blow into a sampling cup without contact. On the other hand, specific testing displays the breath alcohol concentration in 2 to 3 decimal places after employees blow through a mouthpiece which needs to be changed for every test.
While many breathalysers have two testing modes, some breathalysers cater to only one of them; hence, the testing modes of the breathalysers should be taken into account depending on how the breath alcohol testing should be conducted according to your company’s alcohol and drug testing policy. It is ideal to purchase breathalysers with both testing modes so that they can be used even if there are changes in the testing procedure.
Portable or wall mounted
The main difference between a handheld and a wall mounted breathalyser is that the former is portable and the latter is fixed to a wall or a stand. Portable breathalysers are handy for ad-hoc use at multiple locations, such as mining sites, construction sites, and on the road. A person in charge may be required to supervise the breath alcohol testing process and to safe-keep the device after use.
Wall mounted breathalysers are good for regular testing at fixed locations, such as offices and building entrances. They allow employees to carry out the breath alcohol testing without supervision and can double as a time attendance system as well as an access control system, depending on the software provided and system compatibility.
Regular breathalyser calibration is essential to maintain performance and accuracy, especially for breathalysers that are used frequently under various environmental conditions. The calibration frequency of a breathalyser is normally between 6 to 12 months but some breathalysers require calibration after a certain number of tests. Breathalyser calibration can lead to days or weeks of downtime; hence, planning should be done in advance when breathalysers are purchased to arrange for replacements during downtime.
However, most wall mounted breathalysers have replaceable sensors where a loan sensor is provided while the original sensor is sent for calibration. Generally, there would be no concern for downtime for breathalysers with replaceable sensors.
Breathalysers are not one-time-purchase products. Arrangements are needed to send them to calibration centres at regular intervals. When a company owns multiple breathalysers of different models with different purchase dates, it can be difficult to keep track of the calibration schedule.
A good after-sales service provided by breathalyser suppliers can remove the hassle by:
- Sending reminders for the calibration of specific breathalysers.
- Providing shipping labels to ease the delivery of breathalysers to calibration centres.
- Providing express service and delivery options to reduce downtime.
This is why it is best to check the availability and efficiency of the after-sales services before placing an order for a breathalyser.
Australian Standard certification
Even though the Australian government does not mandate all breathalysers sold in the country to be certified under the Australian Standard AS3547, breathalysers with this certification have fulfiled stringent requirements in providing accurate and reliable breath alcohol testing results, such as:
- Accuracy should be maintained for at least 6 months after calibration.
- Heightened Maximum Permissible Errors (MPEs) for breath alcohol readings.
- Short recovery time before subsequent breath alcohol testing can be carried out.
- Accurate results regardless of physical and environmental conditions.
- Unalterable breath alcohol concentration data.
Purchasing an Australian Standard certified breathalyser eliminates the risk of obtaining breathalysers with questionable accuracy. This allows proper execution of the company’s alcohol and drug testing policy with solid data.
While the main function of a breathalyser is to quantify the breath alcohol concentration of an individual, many breathalysers come with optional features to assist with the testing process and documentation of data, such as:
- Indicator lights
- Camera for facial recognition or proof of tests
- Cloud-based or on-device software that can be connected to a PC for data storage
- Printer to print test results on-site
As data management is an important criterion in alcohol and drug testing policies, these features can potentially save you time by automatically recording the data that can be readily exported for documentation purposes.
Since alcohol and drug testing plays a crucial part in ensuring a safe working environment and boosting employee productivity, getting the right device is one of the important preparations for fair implementation of the alcohol and drug testing policy. Nevertheless, breath alcohol testing in the workplace should be conducted as a way to identify employees who may be struggling with drinking issues in order to provide them with the support they need, instead of seeking to punish those who have broken the rules.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.
Written by Jaka Exstrada