Alcohol testing in the workplace requires a method that is quick, accurate and that provides immediate results. Employees may be under the influence of alcohol from late night/early morning drinking activity. They may be alcohol-dependent and have had a drink before starting work: in the UK, it is estimated that 1.42% of the population has an alcohol use disorder . They may even be drinking on the job.
The possible signs that someone is misusing alcohol at work include:
- Aggressive or abnormally pushy behaviour
- Lack of motivation
- Poor time-keeping
- Unkempt appearance
However, it is important to note that symptoms of alcohol misuse can be hard to recognise in functioning alcoholics. The only way to ascertain whether alcohol is in someone’s system is by random alcohol testing. Random testing can be undertaken with short or no notice, and exactly who is to be tested will be unknown by the workforce. This form of testing greatly reduces the chances of alcohol-abusing employees using tactics to avoid a test, or change their habits in time to escape a positive result during the testing detection time.
Early intervention can prevent serious breaches in health and safety. Accidents, personal injury, material damage and loss of business reputation can all result from alcohol consumption. If you suspect someone of misusing alcohol it is important to act immediately.
Alcohol testing in work
Breath testing for alcohol is ideal for on-site workplace testing because it is a quick test that can provide an instant reading to show the level of alcohol in a person’s system. The person being tested blows into the device, and the results are given as a digital readout. The readout is a number, known as the breath alcohol concentration (BAC), which shows the level of alcohol in the breath at the time the test was taken. It does not measure past use of alcohol. Some companies require zero-tolerance alcohol-detection levels for safety-critical roles, whereas others adhere to the UK’s drink-driving limits (35μg/100mL breath for England, Wales and Northern Ireland; and 22μg/100mL breath for Scotland).
AlphaBiolabs uses the Dräger Alcotest® 6820 alcohol detection device for its breath–alcohol analysis. This compact device provides precise test results in all weather conditions and is therefore suitable for all workplace sectors. The Alcotest® 6820 is Home Office approved and is used by UK police to enforce drink-driving limits. It is ideal for employee screening as it permits high volume testing of numerous employees.
Breath alcohol sampling options
There are two options available for the breath testing service. AlphaBiolabs has a trained network of sample collectors around the UK who can visit company premises and perform the breath test. The rapid response callout service ensures that a collector can visit any site as soon as possible (ideally within 2 hours). Alternatively, AlphaBiolabs can train up members of a company’s staff to perform the testing themselves. The advantage of having trained staff on site is that a test can be performed as and when needed, and more quickly than waiting for a sample collector call out. Alcohol levels drop by 1 unit every hour so speed is of the essence for alcohol breath tests.
 Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network. Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (GBD 2016) Results. Seattle, USA: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 2017.