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More than two-thirds of positive breath tests are the 'morning after'

Companies are being urged to educate drivers about ‘morning after’ drink-driving after a major fleet operator found one of its drivers was two times over the legal alcohol limit.

Speaking at the Brake Fleet Safety Conference, Martin ‘Nobby’ Clark, driver development manager at Balfour Beatty Fleet Services, said he had breathalysed an employee at a drink and drugs workshop and found he was two-times over the limit from drinking the night before.

Clark, a retired traffic police officer, was using a police breathalyser so the reading was accurate.

“The driver had had three pints and a ‘wee dram’ of whiskey the night before,” he said.

The reading was done as an exercise at the start of the workshop and Clark suggested the employee would have been at least 2.5 times over the limit when he drove to work that morning.

“The frightening thing is that it’s so easy to be over,” he said. “People think it is more difficult.

“A lot of people don’t know that 70% of all positive breath tests are the morning after the night before. In my 22 years in the police, I’d say 80% of my drink-drive arrests were the morning after the night before.

“I’ve seen grown men cry in the back of my police car when I put the handcuffs on and when they went on to tell me they had only three pints the previous evening, I’ll be honest with you, I did feel sorry for them. The ones who were having difficulty standing up, I didn’t feel sorry for them whatsoever.”

To have an employee over the limit at a workshop came as “no surprise” to Clark, although it was a surprise to the 30 drivers attending the workshop who had been “noisy prior to that” but then went “very quiet”.

The workshop took place a few years ago and Balfour Beatty has not had any incidents since.

It has a comprehensive risk management programme (as part of its commitment to Zero Harm), which includes online risk assessments, driver licence checking, classroom-based and on-the-road training, driver simulators and the fitment of safety technology such as ABS and electronic stability control.

It also routinely tests employees for drugs and alcohol and has started offering drink/drugs workshops to other fleets.

Clark believes other organisations should test their employees. “If it was up to me I would buy a police breathalyser and randomly breathalyse people in the workplace,” he said.

“You can give guides but there is no accurate way of saying how much you can drink.

“It depends on the individual. Two people could drink three pints, wait two hours, be breathalysed and get two completely different readings.”



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  • Patriot - 01/07/2014 12:11

    Let me see if I understand this article: Balfour Beatty employ drivers who do not know the law on Drink Driving? Just how much more time and money is going to be spent by companies 'educating' drivers on Road Safety?
    Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of employees and others so far as is reasonably practicable. Allowing an employee to continue working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol when this causes a risk could be an offence.
    Individual employees also have a duty to take reasonable care and not to put themselves or others at risk.
    When employees are given a copy of the relevant legislation there can be no misunderstanding.

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  • Marina Bolton - 01/07/2014 16:58

    I would be great if you could invite the local police into the workplace to do this kind of testing on a random Monday morning. Not to penalise employees but to highlight the dangers of drinking the night before. For small companies to run training courses is difficult and outside sources are often very expensive.

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  • Melissa B Adams - 16/07/2014 16:50

    I understand what Marina is saying in her comment, but I can't see my crews agreeing to be tested this way. Maybe if it was done privately and then pointed out to the crews that X number of employees tested over the legal limit - but not say who it was. Just knowing that maybe 1,2,3 or more of their co-workers were over the limit the next day would be enough to be everyone's wake up call. But I can only speak from my team's dynamics. But Marina's right - it would be a great idea.

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    • Marina - 16/07/2014 17:04

      @Melissa B Adams -
      I agree doing it privately so no names are released would be better.

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  • Patriot - 16/07/2014 17:28

    Melissa and Marina;
    What's with the Nannying? Contracts of employment should state clearly DD,fraud and theft can lead to dismissal (Mine say that). I also do not agree that names should not be mentioned, if a driver is found to be over the limit the 'grapevine' will ensure his/her details are known to everyone before lunchtime. It is not difficult to make drivers aware during their probationary period what the consequences are for breaking the laws. I'm sure the Police Service has far better things to do than sending officers to a workplace to spend their valuable time pointing out the dangers of drink driving to supposedly mature adults.
    It is a simple message: If you drink and drive you will be an ex-employee.

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