AlcoDigital Breathalyzer – Product Review

  • Building Design Expert
  • 2 weeks ago

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Reviewing a breathalyser on the BDE web site is not something I thought I would ever entertain. But in the best public interest I am the first to concede that the professionals and tradesmen that make up the construction industry are some of the biggest boozers I know, and of course, most of them also drive. Enough said.

I am fortunate enough never to have been breathalysed and hope I never get myself into a situation that would warrant it. But, if you’re like me you may have wondered, on occasion, if you are close to, at, or even over that dreaded threshold known euphemistically as “the legal limit”. There are plenty that would argue that any amount of alcohol is in fact too much. Especially those parents of children consequentially lost; that tragedy will never pass.

Killing a child is arguably the ultimate of any drink driving incident. But take the selfish stance for a moment and you’re not even driving. You are returning to work on a construction site after a couple in the pub over lunch. Are the consequences the same? They could be!!

In charge of a power tool? The foreman shouts over to you that the dumper driver has gone home sick; you are the first reserve on the dumper and you’re on. Power tool or dumper; they are both as much a weapon as a car or a motorcycle and you’ve had two pints. Are you over that limit? – Possibly? Probably!!

There may come a time (and for some larger contractors that time may we’ll be here) when all operatives might be breathalysed as they log on for the morning or afternoon on any construction site. Some might say if not why not, as there is no place for impaired judgement; putting yourself and importantly your co-workers at risk.

This little gizmo – the AlcoDigital Breathalyzer – ‘AlcoScan ALP-1’ – is all any sober site manager will need.

Just in case you are wondering, this unit is on loan for my review, I don’t get to keep it. Once I got past the teething issues that may surround any unfamiliar gadget of this type, I did find it most useful; certainly at the results level.

You will have seen these things on TV. The policeman stops the driver, or gets them back to the station and says “blow very hard into this pipe until I say stop.” You see that person virtually expire as they give their last breath to the machine. I was pleased to note this is not necessary with the unit I was testing. A three-second blow was all that was needed. Then you wait. It analyses for five seconds or so then announces (via the LCD screen) that your breath has registered ‘x’ amount of milligrams per litre (mg/l) of alcohol. – So what does that mean? Good question as this was the default calibration my unit was delivered in. On further interrogation of the settings menu (once I got the PIN to work) I found a raft of units were available: Either as an overall percentage, in grams per litre and also the recognisable micrograms per 100 millilitres – Phew. That was a relief

The ‘legal limit’ in England and Wales is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. Unfortunately, already, we have a problem which requires a quick maths conversion. Shouldn’t be too bad as long as you’re not drunk!!

The conversion is simple: for example, you might obtain a reading of 0.207 on the machine. This equates to 20.7 micrograms / 100 millilitres. As long as you are up to making the conversion this is fine. But I did query this with the company that sent the unit to me, who simply said that there are a variety of machines on the market and each manufacturer may choose to calibrate theirs in a way that suits their technology. But as you see above their helpline was not quite up to speed with the units actually available, or they certainly did not make themselves quite clear.

I must confess this was not the answer I was hoping to hear. I thought the calibration, at the least, may be variable in the machine settings. But it would appear not and as a consequence, I have to mark down my assessment scoring.

There is, I discovered, a more instant solution that is available in the machine settings that will give you a simple ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’. Great. Well, at least you know not to pick up that jack-hammer, or drive that digger. What it doesn’t tell you is by how much you are over/under, which could be most useful in certain circumstances; unless of course, you are actually struggling to stand upright; then it’s a straightforward confirmation of what we already know.

The unit is available with a Bluetooth connected printer. Employers, I am certain, would find this useful by insisting that drivers take readings at the start, middle and end of each day – presenting the printouts at the end of each week say, on their return to base. One way to keep a sober workforce. The threat of instant dismissal with a reading in the wrong direction, coupled with records from a driving tracker should be enough to keep most drivers in line.

Once I spent some time and drilled down into the bowels of this device, I discovered the level of sophistication is extremely high, with the huge number of features and settings not all an essential part of every user’s life. My quibble would be its ‘user-friendliness’. Intuitive it is not. More Microsoft than Apple. However, in the hands of someone who gets to know it at mother and child level, it should become second nature eventually!!

The manufacturer Alcodigital, produces a range of these little machines, with some starting at less than £100. This one is several hundred pounds and as ever, the old adage applies that you get what you pay for. In this case, there is a high degree of sophistication that will not be required by everyone so take care to scan the marketplace for a unit that meets your actual needs.

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