Safety advice for workplace alcohol and drug testing during COVID-19

Business Insights

During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021, many companies and organisations understandably paused or scaled down workplace alcohol and drug testing due to hygiene concerns.

With employees now returning to the workplace, many employers have been left wondering how to safely redeploy in-house drug and alcohol testing and manage the risks associated with breath testing for alcohol and oral fluid testing for drugs, which are generally seen as the most effective and accurate method of workplace testing.

Drug and alcohol testing performs a key role for many organisations in meeting their responsibility under HSE guidance to ensure that all employees are safe in the workplace, and there is no question that in safety critical environments it is an essential part of the daily operations of a depot or site. 

So how should drug and alcohol testing be managed around COVID-19?

Guidelines for Alcohol & Drug Testing During COVID

AlcoDigital, UK drug and alcohol safety experts, have recently published the following safety guidance to organisations implementing in-house alcohol and/or drug testing.

Test employees outside

Where possible, set-up a testing area outside. If this is not possible, indoor testing should take place in a well-ventilated area and protective screens should be used for additional protection for both the operator (the person administering the tests) and the donor (the person the sample is being taken from).

Sanitise between tests

Where testing is taking place indoors, all hard surfaces in the vicinity should be subject to enhanced cleaning regime between each test.

Where alcohol-based sanitisers and disinfectant are being used to clean the test equipment, leave a minimum of 10 minutes between cleaning and the next test to ensure that any alcohol-vapours that could affect a breath test reading have dissipated.

Wear appropriate PPE

The operator and donor should maintain social distancing wherever possible and ensure that any contact is minimal. Any test paperwork should be prepared in advance as much as possible to ensure that testing takes place quickly and efficiently.

We recommend that masks and gloves are worn by both the operator and donor at all times while following testing procedures and handling equipment. 

Crucially, the mask of the donor may be lifted when the physical sample of breath or oral fluid is being taken, but should be replaced immediately after the sample has been taken.

PPE should be removed and disposed of in a suitably-safe manner after each test.

Record operator and donor details

Details of both the test operator and donor should be carefully recorded on test paperwork, for future traceability and any NHS Track & Trace requirements.

Ensure COVID safe breathalyser use

The exhaust-end of any breathalyser should be directed away from the vicinity of any personnel to prevent exhaled air contamination. Exhaled breath as an aerosol will travel much further than normal exhaled breath – all hard surfaces within a 4-metre radius that could be contaminated should be cleaned after each test.

The donor should open and fit the disposable mouthpiece wherever possible. Individually packed disposable mouthpieces should be attached to the breathalyser without touching the mouthpiece itself.

Non-Return Valve Mouthpieces can be used with Dräger Alcotest equipment.

The test should be carried out at a 90 degree angle to prevent the donor from blowing in the direction of the operator. Extenders by way of ‘selfie sticks’ can be used where donor-handling of equipment is not possible.

Mouthpieces must be carefully removed and hygienically discarded after every use.

Contactless alcohol testing

With contactless transactions now the norm, contactless alcohol testing is being utilised by employers screening employees for alcohol on a daily basis. The fully automated breathalyser system from Worksober uses AI facial recognition to remotely breathalyse employees at their point of entry, creating an alcohol-free workplace.

The system functions autonomously with no need for staff or consumables, significantly reducing in-house testing costs and the risk of COVID-19 transmission from operator to donor.

Get further advice

If you have any further questions or concerns about alcohol and/or drug testing and COVID, AlcoDigital’s experienced team can offer free advice and effective solutions for your company or organisation - contact them via their website or call 0208 454 7372.