With the onset of Covid-19, breathalyser specialist Alcohol Breathalysers was presented with the unique challenge of supplying alcohol breathalysers for workplaces and the mining industry that are safe and hygienic to use during the pandemic.
The company has since developed operational techniques that result in safe on-site use of alcohol breathalysers.
“While no physical changes or adaptations were needed for our breathalyser equipment, we have made a major change in that we now recommend and make use of paper straws, which are disposable, and alcohol-free steriwipes. This ensures that the equipment remains sterile at all times prior to testing and after testing,” says Alcohol Breathalysers director Angus MacArthur.
He tells Mining Weekly that, in addition to introducing the paper straws and wipes to the use of iBlow10 and Entrance Breathalyser System, the company also produced stands against which the breathalysers can be affixed or magnetised. This allows for no physical contact between the person being tested and the actual breathalyser and no handling of the equipment when carrying out alcohol screening.
“Before the onset of the pandemic, our iBlow10 breathalyser already allowed for no-contact, no-blowback breathalyser testing. “The breathalyser was already equipped with a built-in magnet, which allowed for the alcohol tester to stick to metallic surfaces, such as a motor vehicle body, security gate, pole or beam,” MacArthur explains.
He adds that the greatest challenge and learning curve was educating all clients on the safe and hygienic use of breathalysers.
Sourcing and supplying vast quantities of affordable paper straws and finding alternatives to alcohol-based sanitisers and wipes were also challenges.
The alcohol-based sanitisers and wipes often produce false positive tests, but “we managed to distribute tens of millions of paper straws and alcohol-free steri-wipes over the past 18 months”, says MacArthur.
Moreover, the company’s breathalysers being used in conjunction with the 8 mm paper straws is beneficial during the pandemic because exhaled breath exits from the rear or side of the breathalyser and not back towards the person blowing. Blowing into the Entrance Breathalyser System with a paper straw allows for safe breath alcohol testing, as the exhaled breath does not return towards the person being tested or towards the next person blowing into the breathalyser.
MacArthur adds that, initially, the majority of the mining industry stopped using breathalyser equipment until hygiene policies and procedures were developed in relation to Covid-19.
This was followed by the procurement of the steriwipes and paper straws, as well as amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act regulations to stipulate safe breathalyser-use guidelines, which were subsequently adopted and promulgated. Once accepted and gazetted, breathalyser testing at mines restarted.
“We would like to encourage all companies and our law-enforcement authorities to continue breath alcohol testing in their workplaces and at roadblocks. “This can be done safely by paying special attention to our hygiene guidelines and ensuring that all employees remain aware of the high risk of working and driving while under the influence of alcohol,” he concludes.