South Africa-based electronic alcohol detection and drug-testing equipment supplier Alco-Safe will start supplying the Lion Detection System 20 (DS-20) interlock system – a breathalyser attached to the starter motor of a vehicle – by the end of April, says Alco-Safe director Rhys Evans.
He explains to Engineering News that the driver of a vehicle in which the Lion DS-20 is installed is required to blow into the system’s breathalyser before the vehicle’s starter motor can engage. It will fail to engage if the driver tests negative for alcohol.
Evans believes that the Lion DS-20 is essential for any large-scale operation, as “it ensures that expensive equipment is never operated by people under the influence of alcohol, which is when things get broken and accidents happen”.
Evans explains that France currently has the biggest market for interlock systems, owing to the country’s legislation that requires any truck, bus or vehicle carrying children to have an interlock system installed. Evans highlights the potential benefits if South Africa were to follow suit by incorporating an interlock system into law.
Increased Market Uptake
Evans also tells Engineering News that Alco-Safe’s Drug Detection System (DDS2) is gaining popularity among employers across several industries.
The DDS2, a saliva-test drug detection system launched by Alco-Safe in 2013, is being used concurrently with breathalysers, enabling companies to test employees for alcoholic and narcotic intoxication in the workplace.
The DDS2 saliva test, compared with its predecessor, DDS1, does not allow for operator error and is more sensitive than DDS1; it can, therefore, detect the presence of drugs in saliva, even if the concentration is minimal, says Evans. He explains that, unlike DDS1, DDS2 automatically mixes the saliva sample with the buffer solution, which ensures no operator error. Further, the results of each test are recorded in a unique barcode for later access.
Compared with disposable urine testing, which was a more common method of testing for drug use, saliva testing has a much shorter window period, which is beneficial, as an operator is more likely to detect whether someone is intoxicated at that particular moment.
Depending on the drug, urine tests have a window period of up to two months, while saliva tests show positive results only if narcotics have been used within the past 24 hours. “This means that employers are better able to discern whether an employee is intoxicated on site, which matters more than whether he or she consumed marijuana over the weekend,” says Evans.
He adds that, for this reason, labour unions have been a lot more receptive to saliva tests.
Produced by substance-test manufacturer Alere Toxicology, DDS2 tests for methamphetamines, including tik, ecstacy and khat; amphetamines, such as speed; tetrahydrocannabinol, or marijuana; cocaine and crack cocaine; opiates, such as heroine, nyaope and morphine; and Benzodiazepine, or prescription medication.
He tells Engineering News that the demand for drug-testing equipment has increased rapidly over the past two years, especially since alcohol testing in the workplace started gaining popularity. Alco-Safe responded to this increase in demand and added the DDS2 to its product line, along with breathalyser systems.Sole Supplier
Alco-Safe has signed exclusivity agreements with breath alcohol test manufacturer Lion laboratories and substance-testing manufacturer Alere Toxicology, which ensures that Alco-Safe is the sole supplier in South Africa.
Further, Alco-Safe helps companies implement substance abuse programmes to ensure that companies comply with health and safety policies. Evans says the biggest demand for the company’s products is from the corporate sector, specifically construction and mining companies.
“The more high-risk the environment, the more demand there is to test employees for drug and alcohol abuse,” Evans elaborates.
Alco-Safe’s clients include multidisciplinary construction company Liviero Civils, construction company Murray & Roberts Construction, State-owned power utility Eskom, diversified mining majors Exxaro and Glencore, and manganese miner Kalagadi Manganese.
Evans says there is much resistance to drug testing from labour unions and he believes the unions’ grounds for this resistance to be dubious.
He says that, often, labour unions’ attempts to delegitimise the safety process of testing for substance abuse is to save the job of an individual who was found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Evans explains, however, that it is rare for someone to be dismissed after one offence. He adds that workers face disciplinary action, after which they receive a warning, and have to attend counselling. He asserts, however, that should an employee continue to arrive at work under the influence of alcohol or drugs after a disciplinary process, there are fair grounds for dismissal.
He concedes that drug and alcohol testing can be a mechanism for victimisation if it is not used in a random, fair and equal way.
Alco-Safe offers training programmes to teach employees how to use the equipment properly. “I always stress that Alco-Safe is not here to get people in trouble. It is purely for safety,” Evans concludes.