The National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) in Australia operates 15 accreditation programs, and one of them is chemical testing. Chemical testing accreditation is awarded to facilities that meet detailed technical requirements in areas like fuels, foods, metals and so on. Included under chemical testing is calibration of breathalysers. In the workplace, the accuracy of the equipment used to detect alcohol content in the breath of workers is critical to maintaining workplace safety and for ensuring human resources decisions are based on accurate information. Though there is no standard for recalibration, using a NATA accredited service gives employers the assurances the company has established rigorous internal quality control procedures as related to recalibration technicians and recalibrated equipment.
Breathalysers, or electronic breath alcohol testing devices, require regular recalibration to ensure accurate results are produced each time a worker is tested. Like any sensitive piece of equipment, frequent use and contamination can lead to the unit producing results with wide variances. The sensors in the equipment are particularly prone to contamination from substances other than the alcohol in a person’s breath. The frequency of recalibration needed depends on the type of breathalyser sensor. For example, a silicon oxide sensor needs more frequent re-calibration than equipment with a platinum fuel cell sensor. The types of breathalysers classified in the Australian standards include:
Type 1: Single use, disposable testing equipment
Type 2: Hand-held or portable electronic devices
Type 3: Fixed electronic devices
Type 4: Interlock devices attached to vehicles or other machinery
Accredited Services Fill a Knowledge Gap
Calibration is the process of adjusting an electronic breathalyser so that it produces accurate results that meet the requirements of Australian standards. Since Type 1 units are disposable, they do not need recalibration, but all of the electronic devices must be routinely maintained. Recalibration is merely the process of resetting the device to calibration standards when the calibration setting drifts over time.
The standards are quite detailed in defining the performance requirements for each type of breathalyser. The accuracy of the equipment after recalibration is dependent on the skills and knowledge of the technicians. Most employers only know rudimentary information about breathalysers because they rely on recalibration services to keep the equipment working accurately and reliably. For example, the employer will learn how to indentify negative, caution and positive results on a portable electronic device but has no way to test the equipment to determine if simulated blood alcohol readings produce accurate results. A lot of faith is placed in the accuracy of the breathalyser readings.
Obviously, the quality of the recalibration services is critical to getting accurate equipment results. That is why using a NATA accredited company experienced in breathalyser recalibration is crucial. NATA represents the peak authority in Australia for accrediting the technical competency of laboratories and certified reference materials and operates proficiency testing programs in calibration areas. Employers using an accredited calibration company know they are getting:
Professional services meeting the highest quality control standards
Recalibration results that are accurate and reliable
Technical services from competent staff with up-to-date training
Access to ongoing professional expertise
Consistent, accurate and dependable breathalyser results
Passing a Rigorous Test
An alcohol testing service accredited under the NATA chemical testing program has gone through a rigorous assessment by a team of lead and technical assessors with specialist knowledge. Earning NATA accreditation is a true honour and a reflection of a company’s dedication to overall quality. Employers using accredited testing services know that an external authority has verified a company’s training, methods, quality control standards, technical knowledge and management systems. The breathalyser equipment can be used with the peace of mind that comes with knowing the workplace breathalyser results are accurate, and medically and legally defensible.
CMM Technology (cmm.com.au/), a leading supplier of high quality drug and alcohol testing products, provide everything employers need to maintain a reliable workplace testing program. NATA accreditation in chemical testing establishes the company as an industry leader.