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Myers proposes employee breath analyzers

March 01, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Employers in Maryland could use breath analyzers to test workers for alcohol under a proposed state bill.

Currently, employers have four testing options - blood, urine, hair and saliva - said Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, who sponsored the bill.

A breath test is less obtrusive than other choices, said Myers, who owns a Clear Spring contracting company.

At a hearing Wednesday before the House Economic Matters Committee, Mike Dean of the Communication Workers of America spoke against the bill.

He said he was concerned about letting employers administer the test, a process that requires the Maryland State Police to go through hours of training.

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Also, a breath sample can't be retested if there's a question about the result, Dean said.

During a telephone interview, state police spokesman Sgt. Arthur Betts said troopers and other police officers must go through a 40-hour training class before they may use an Intoximeter EC/IR breath test.

After the hearing, Myers said the idea for his bill didn't stem from anything at his company, Myers Building Systems. Rather, a local paving contractor had an incident in which a worker using a roller injured someone.

"I look at it as a safety issue," Myers said.

He submitted the same bill last year, but it was defeated in committee.

An employer and a union representative from Washington County interviewed Wednesday didn't see a need for breath tests at their companies.

D.M. Bowman uses urine tests to check employees for drugs and alcohol, Director of Human Resources Linda Baer said.

Tests are given before employees are hired and at random while they're employed, as well as for worker's compensation cases, she said.

About 75 percent of the company's employees are drivers, she said.

Volvo Powertrain North America uses two types of tests, said David A. Perkins, the president of UAW Local 171, which represents about 1,300 employees at three companies in Washington County.

When hiring people, Volvo Powertrain North America tests hair. If there is probable cause to test an employee on the job, the company uses a urine sample, he said.

Perkins also expressed doubts about using a sample that can't be retested.

On the Web at http://mlis.state.md.us/2007rs/billfile/hb0743.htm

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