A local mining company is introducing voluntary alcohol testing in an effort to empower employees to make their own decision about whether or not to clock in for work if they test positive. ALCO-Safe, a leading provider of alcohol and drug testing equipment, is supplying the voluntary testing stations. The instruments are suitable across multiple sectors and industries, where repeated positive alcohol testing is impacting work performance, and resulting in job losses.

The instrument, known as Alcontrol, is a wall mounted device, based on ALCO-Safe’s Lion Alcoblow Rapid Test, and offers employees the opportunity to self-test their alcohol levels before entering the premises.

Says Rhys Evans, MD at ALCO-Safe, “The device is intended to be a positive influence on staff who occasionally overindulge, giving them the opportunity to rather stay at home and avoid endangering themselves, or their colleagues,” says Evans. “We find that this enables organisations to reduce alcohol abuse among their staff, which benefits the employers as well as the workers.”

Voluntary testing has been common practice at organisations with strict alcohol control for numerous years, however, this form of voluntary testing can be achieved without requiring a third party such as a security guard, to conduct the test. This method allows people who do not typically abuse alcohol, but may have unknowingly overindulged the previous day, to test themselves and not enter the premises if they are over the limit.

The unit has an optional camera, which can be used for additional control purposes and to avoid issues such as repeat absenteeism. According to Rhys Evans, Director at ALCO-Safe -should the device be fitted to a turnstile , the camera ensures that workers do not abuse the system by getting co-workers to test for them, which compromises the safety of everyone on site. He adds that the camera also provides a record of people who test themselves, thereby ensuring that people do not exceed the permitted limit of self-tests – a control measure used to curb wilful absenteeism due to alcohol abuse.

Backed by policy
Evans says, “Several mines and similar organisations face the risk of depleted workforces when uncontrolled voluntary testing is introduced. However, the challenge with voluntary testing is that alcohol abusers tend to take advantage of the system and use their right to voluntary testing as an excuse to justify absenteeism due to positive test results. For this reason, organisations have to couple the voluntary test program with a policy which restricts the number of allowable positive testing within a certain period of time. The camera ensures the policy is adhered to.”

“It is important to have a well-proclaimed and defined disciplinary procedure clearly communicated to staff, so that they are aware of the consequences of excessive positive self-tests and do not use it as an excuse to avoid work, or avoid being penalised by a positive alcohol test.

Evans adds that the device is best used in conjunction with an alcohol education policy, which seeks to educate staff on the risks of alcohol abuse and how to combat them.

“Because so many people do not fully understand the risks associated with alcohol abuse, to themselves, their families and the business they work for, the tendency to abuse alcohol – and trick the system – is higher. A worker who understands his limitations is more likely to drink responsibly and, in those instances where they may slip up, they can use the Alcontrol to self-test, without fear of immediate job loss, however with the understanding that self-testing also has its limits,” concludes Evans.

The Alcontrol will be available for purchase from October 2017.