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A new breathalyser procedure and holding station has what it takes to aid in COVID-19 prevention in South Africa
29 June 2020
A new breathalyser procedure and holding station has what it takes to aid in COVID-19 prevention in South Africa

Along with the reopening of bottle stores on June 1st as South Africa moved to Level 3 lockdown, many commercial and manufacturing sectors began their phased return to work. Back to business means back to the requirement to perform breathalyser tests on personnel before they’re permitted to enter the workplace. Everyone wants to know:  is it possible to perform these legislatively mandated intoxication checks safely, given what we know about the spread of the coronavirus? The simple answer is yes. ALCO-Safe, suppliers of quality alcohol and drug testing equipment and accessories, has developed a new holding station and breathalyser procedure designed specifically to prevent the spread of the virus to bolster health & safety procedures for many industries. 


Misplaced concern about breathalysers

For industries that require workers to pass a breathalyser test before entering the workplace, an enhanced safety procedure that makes provision for social distancing, while protecting both the test subject and the test operator can now be implemented. Consisting of a protective housing device for the breathalyser that can be mounted on a tripod stand, or on a wall at the factory entrance, for example.

The enclosure stops the test subject’s air from spreading around the room thus preventing exposure to the operator. Rhys Evans, MD at ALCO-Safe , “This housing device removes the need for the operator to physically handle the breathalyser device while the test subject is present, and the results can be viewed instantly through a side panel window.”

In addition to keeping the correct distance away from the test subject, physical contact with the breathalyser is minimised through the use of disposable paper straws to blow through.  “It should be noted that the issue is not the person blowing into the breathalyser, but rather the fact that the operator can be exposed to dozens of people in a single day.” says Evans. “By minimising physical contact with any objects or persons that can be contaminated and following the normal safety protocols for COVID-19 (such as complying with face mask and glove requirements), it is possible to test safely.”


Safety first: it’s the law

Evans further highlights that according to recently published Mining Gazette regulations, safety protocols for breathalysers have been updated and the new housing device and enhanced safety protocol have been designed with these regulations in mind. He says, “It is specified that the testing instrument must be used in a well-ventilated area - which is now possible. Thanks to an extendable arm, the operator can maintain a physical distance of two metres at all times.”


These regulations also state that the test subject should not be closer than five centimetres to the testing device, and that there should be no physical contact. By making use of the disposable straw in the enclosure it is possible to ensure that the individual maintains a distance of 30 centimetres from the device, which is more than the minimum requirement for compliance.

Not just a short-term requirement

Given the fact that liquor sales are restricted to business hours, Monday to Thursday, it’s likely that consumers will be leaving the workplace on their lunch breaks to visit the bottle store and stock up for the weekend. This makes it even more important for companies in industries like mining, manufacturing, food or packaging and warehousing to test their employees regularly and thoroughly.


Evans concludes, “Realistically speaking, it’s uncertain for how much longer the coronavirus is going to negatively affect the way we live and work. Regardless, we should accept heightened health and safety requirements as the new norm going forward and take every possible precaution to ensure that intoxicated workers do not enter the workplace.”

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