AlcoDigital Advice and Solutions from the
UK's Drug & Alcohol Safety Experts

Call us on 0208 454 7372

Why do I need a Certified Breathalyzer for testing someone else?

False Positives - the real cost.
All non-approved "Personal" Breathalyzers will over-read to a greater or lesser extent.  The latest Fuel Cell detectors onto the market (such as the iCharge) are far better than their semi-conductor based predecessors but even so they will always tend to over-read than under-read. For an individual, this is ideal - far better to think they are over the limit and not drive, than the other way around.
But when used to test someone else the results can be far more problematical.

Take the scenario where a driver is checked by the manager in the morning before work and according to the £50 breathalyser the company bought from Amazon the driver is shown to be over the limit. The Driver is sent home, almost certainly now subject to disciplinary action - and the company has to pay them and someone else to do his job, while they feels agrieved at being accused of something they're not guilty of. But the detector could easily be over-reading (as it is designed to!) or could be mistaking mint vapour, mouthwash or other contaminants in the sample for Alcohol.

The cost to the organisation? Potentially very high. At a minimum they are a driver down for the day and management time is taken to follow-up the incident. But the employee is likely to suffer considerable stress at having been falsely accused - and claims of psychological trauma can easily run to several thousand pounds if the employer can be shown to have used a device that was not fit for purpose.


Duty of Care - HSE Legislation
Health and Safety Legislation obligates all organisation with a duty of care towards their staff and customers - and it is the Directors' responsibility to ensure that working practices are safe and fair, that equipment provided is fit for purpose and that the organisation does not knowingly endanger either it's staff, customers or any other third parties. 

How does that relate to a Drugs & Alcohol Policy? Firstly the organisation must satisfy themselves that their employees are fit for work - which includes being sober. If an accident were to occur caused by an employee who was under the influence of Alcohol, the responsible manager would have to demonstrate that they had taken all reasonable steps to prevent such an occurrence. In most cases this includes random Breath Testing - but the device used for such a test must also be capable of being shown to be accurate, consistent and fit for purpose.

What is the likely view of a court, tribunal or the HSE Inspectors towards an organisation, who when asked for details
of the testing equipment in use,
has to admit to using a low cost, non-certified self-test  breathalyzer - just to save a few pounds?
Breathalyzers are important items of Safety & Compliance Equipment and should be purchased on that basis.
Cost vs Accuracy & Longevity
It's not all about the intial cost; buying a proper, made-for-the-job breathalyzer can SAVE money in the long run. The Draeger 6510 is the entry level for a UK Certified Breathalyzer however, when compared to the cost of a typical "personal" breathalyser, may well be some six times the cost. The reason is mostly to do with accuracy but it is also about build qualituy. They are designed to be used day in, day out by Police Forces all over the UK and with regular calibration (most organisations work to a 6-month calibration schedule) in a less rigourous commercial setting, they will last 10 years or more.  Designed for the job - ie Fit for Purpose, they satisfy HSE compliance but they are also built to remain in use in the harsh environment of Police work.  A typical self-test device may cost less than £100, but it's not likely to last more than a couple of years either.  Multipy the original purchase cost by 5 - not to mention the cost of false positives or failures - and the certified device becomes a the more prudent buying choice.

To pass certification the sensors have to be able to consistently demonstrate their ability to isolate Alcohol, and Alcohol alone from any other contaminants in the breath. They are deliberately designed assuming that the subject being tested will do everything to achieve a false reading - from temperature and moisture checks to exact air volume sampling.

Self-test breathalyzers may appear to do the same job as certified devices but they are not required or capable of passing certification for one simple reason. They are designed to be used by the owner, and the assumption is made that the user is doing their best to get an accurate result..... not a false one!

As can be seen here, the sensors used on Certified Devices are VERY different to those used in low cost devices designed to be used for self-testing. Even when a fuel cell is used, the vast majority (AlcoDigital 3000 excepted) use small, low-power units that don't come close to the accuracy and reliability of breathalysers designed to pass certification. 

Certified Breathalyzers do cost more to buy, but they ensure HSE compliance and in the long term will be
more reliable, last far longer and most importantly - they ensure you don't make accusations and you can't justify.

There are companies on the Internet who advertise cheap personal devices costing from as little as £50 as being "ideally suited for company screening". That may help them shift some boxes and make a tidy profit but in over ten years we have never over-sold our products or misled our customers; it is one reason why we have over 15,000 satisfied customers from the past few years alone and why almost 20% of our business last year was either personal recommendations or repeat business. We will be honest about what you can expect to achieve from the device you buy, even if we lose the sale.

Buying an unsuitable device may seem a useful saving initially, but the cost of a single false positive result, or worse still an incident not picked up by a faulty or inconsistent device could be far greater.  Contact us for further assistance choosing the right device for you needs.