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Why You Should Conduct a Drug and Alcohol Breath Test in the Workplace

21 March, 2022

Alcohol and drug use in the workplace presents many considerable safety risks. Sometimes, a person with a substance use disorder would try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problems. However, without monitoring and appropriate treatment, it compromises workplace safety. Therefore, management must recognise the signs of impairment to protect the safety and well-being of all employees. One of the practical strategies employers use is conducting a drug and alcohol breath test at work. A drug and alcohol breath test identify a person under impairment, primarily when doing safety-sensitive work. In addition, all employees must understand their responsibilities in upholding a safe and healthy working environment. 

A drug and alcohol breath test in the workplace can be controversial since it raises privacy issues. However, it is critical in safety-regulated industries. Heavy substance use leads to severe impairments. Particularly, it affects a person’s perception, cognitive, and motor functions. In addition, substance-induced impairments are the leading causes of workplace accidents and injuries. Therefore, people performing high-risk jobs need to be physically and mentally alert. Implementing a workplace policy is also becoming more common in private organisations to manage safety risks and reduce costs and liabilities. Companies executing regular testing significantly reduces substance-related incidents. It also enables workers to make sound decisions. 

Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Impairment

Drugs and alcohol are substances that have altering effects on the body. In high doses, alcohol intoxication affects vision, hearing, coordination, balance, and judgment. Likewise, illicit substances have detrimental effects on health and safety. It also increases the risk of accidents while driving. In particular, a High Blood Alcohol content (BAC) and drug use have harsh criminal penalties in New Zealand. Therefore, your alcohol level should not reach or exceed 0.05% BAC. Similarly, the workplace should maintain a drug and alcohol-free environment. A drug and alcohol breath test can identify current impairment that can endanger the workplace. It is also essential to recognise symptoms of intoxication to prevent untoward accidents from happening. The indications of drugs and alcohol use are:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushed face
  • Damp or clammy skin
  • Slower reflexes
  • Behaviour change – mood swings, risky, aggressive, or irritable behaviour
  • Uncoordinated movements – stumbling or swaying
  • Poor balance
  • Tremors
  • Dilated pupil

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Drug and Alcohol Breath Test: Kinds of Tests

A comprehensive workplace program enables the employer to conduct a drug and alcohol breath test. There are several methods to detect alcohol and substance use. The employer may avail of the services of certified testing centres to carry out an on-site examination. The common methods for screening tests are:

  • Alcohol breath test
  • Urine sampling 
  • Hair testing
  • Oral Fluid testing
  • Blood Sampling

A laboratory conducts a drug and alcohol breath test to determine impairment. Urine test is the most common type and acceptable test in the workplace. It is less intrusive than a blood test and can detect most consumed illegal substances. The examples of drug types that laboratories test for are amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiates. In addition, a urine test can detect drug use for up to 72 hours from last exposure. 

Drug and Alcohol Breath Test: Breathalysers

Unlike a drug test, alcohol screening is efficient through an alcohol breath test. During a workplace drug and alcohol breath test, companies can use a breathalyser to detect ethanol in the breath. It is a portable device that analyses the breath sample and estimates the BAC level. A professional alcohol tester like the BACtrack utilises fuel cell sensor technology to measure the BAC accurately. In particular, fuel cell sensors undergo an electrochemical process to oxidise alcohol in the breath. If alcohol is present, it generates small electrical currents and converts it into the BAC. In addition, the BAC indicates the intoxication degree. For example, the more you ingest alcohol, the higher your BAC level is. The BACtrack breathalyser can deliver your BAC results in 10 to 15 seconds. 

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Conducting a Drug and Alcohol Breath Test

Safety-critical industries mandate a drug and alcohol breath test in the workplace. It is vital in minimising occupational hazards associated with improper substance use. Specifically, sectors like mining, public transport, construction, manufacturing, and healthcare have a zero-tolerance policy. A zero-tolerance policy stipulates that employees must not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An employer can require employees to submit alcohol or drug tests if it is part of their employment agreement. That is why a workplace policy is essential before conducting any tests. In addition, there must be a formal or signed consent that employees agree to participate in the drug and alcohol test. An effective workplace policy can deter substance use, reduce accidents, improve productivity, and promote safer practices. 

The employer may conduct a drug and alcohol breath test under reasonable circumstances. For example, some companies include pre-employment testing as part of their hiring process. The test can determine if the job applicant takes alcohol or drugs inappropriately, compromising co-workers’ safety and well-being. In addition, a random test is unannounced to identify workers who may have substance use disorders. Another reason for a workplace test is after an accident. For-cause testing is critical to determine if impairment led to the incident or injury. Meanwhile, the policy should state what happens if the test results return positive. Generally, a confirmatory test through blood sampling will verify the initial test results. Finally, the workplace policy outlines the consequences of the violations, like disciplinary actions or assistance programs. 

BACtrack breathalysers: Reliable Breath Test

Alcohol consumption is part of the New Zealand culture. Many people enjoy alcoholic beverages in their free time. Unfortunately, excessive amounts can lead to severe impairments and hazards while driving or working. In line with this, a drug and alcohol breath test in the workplace can prevent accidents from occurring. Breathalysers New Zealand provides accurate and dependable alcohol breath testing to many individuals and industries. Since accidents can happen anytime, a workplace breathalyser like BACtrack helps monitor the employees’ sobriety. In particular, the BACtrack professional breathalysers employ fuel cell sensors for the highest precision of alcohol breath tests. The fuel cell breathalysers have pro-grade accuracy, the same technology law enforcement uses in roadside screenings. 

A drug and alcohol breath test rely on the device’s accuracy. Breathalysers New Zealand provides reliable workplace testing for alcohol to many industries nationwide. All BACtrack devices have an optimal breath capture system that effectively catches the sample breath. The internal breath pump ensures that only the precise breath goes through the sensors and keep ambient air out. In particular, the BACtrack S80 Pro Gen2, Mobile Gen2, and Alcovisor Mercury are premier breathalysers for workplace use. The enhanced fuel cell sensors can trace alcohol concentrations over a complete BAC range. It means that it can precisely measure low to high BAC. Finally, you may also get the BACtrack breathalysers for personal use. Each BACtrack devices undergo rigorous testing to provide high quality and reliable alcohol breath tests. 

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