As Monty Python said: “Now for something completely different” – voluntary alcohol testing in an effort to empower employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to clock in for work if they test positive.
Yes, you read that correctly. The staff member tests him – or herself – on a wall mounted device known as Alcontrol which offers them the opportunity to self-test their alcohol levels before entering the premises. And if they are over the limit, they go home!
ALCO-Safe, a leading provider of alcohol and drug testing equipment, is supplying the voluntary testing station which is based on the company’s Lion Alcoblow Rapid Test.
It might sound far-fetched but according to Rhys Evans, MD of ALCO-Safe, a local mining company has already introduced voluntary alcohol testing. The instruments are suitable across multiple sectors and industries where repeated positive alcohol testing is impacting on work performance and safety.
“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 or, in the case of truck drivers, others on the road. We find this enables organisations to reduce alcohol abuse among their staff,” says Evans.
He adds that although testing has been common practice at organisations with strict alcohol control, 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,” he says.
According to Evans, 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. 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.
Of course, there will be those who will test positive and then say: “Oh great, I’m whacked again. Time to go home”. Such people will 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, Evans stresses that organisations must couple the voluntary test program with a policy which restricts the number of allowable positive testing within a certain period of time.
“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, 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,” he reckons.
It is an interesting concept. In fact, I wish it had been around years ago when me and my mates used to party up a storm – sort of on a nightly basis. I would never have made a day’s work. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why an alcohol testing policy is essential for this to succeed. The voluntary testing and the policy go hand-in-hand.
But it’s great ‘out the box thinking’ for it takes away the employer’s ‘nanny status’ and puts responsibility into the employee’s hands when it comes to alcohol abuse.