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What You Need To Know About FAA Drug and Alcohol Testing Policies

Published on: March 22, 2017

Written by: Janet Russell.

Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace has prompted many employers to comply, so that they can provide a healthy and safe work environment for the workforce. Not all employees may welcome this kind of policy, as some of them see it as an invasion of privacy or removal of the freedom to do what they want. However, implementing a drug and alcohol testing policy would mean better productivity, which in turn would result to higher revenue and a much more sustainable business.

In this article, we will delve into the drug and alcohol testing policies implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

What does a standard drug and alcohol testing policy include?

Before implementing drug and alcohol testing, employers should provide the necessary information to the workers regarding the company’s rules and regulations. This information includes the testing procedure, as well as disciplinary action to be taken once an employee has been found to be violating what the policy states.

A drug and alcohol testing policy guarantees a safe workplace and holds such important information provided to the employees about the standards that are expected from them.


Related Reading: What is the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988?


Such policy should be given at the start of the individual’s employment, and should be signed by the employee. This ensures that any employee has been informed and has understood what the policy states. This also releases the company from any liability, should an employee complain of not being aware of the said policy.

Other information regarding the dangers of these substances should be given in the form of flyers. A poster regarding the testing policy should be placed in conspicuous areas where employees frequently go to.

What are the benefits of implementing a drug and alcohol testing policy?

urine sample workplace drug testing

The primary goal of having a drug and alcohol testing policy is safety. When employees are free to consume alcohol and drug within the workplace, it may increase the chances of problems such as:

  • Absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity level
  • Inappropriate behavior which may lead to crime.
  • Aggression towards fellow employees

Studies have shown that a large majority of the workforce has been and is still hooked on either drugs and alcohol.

What are the benefits that an employer can have through this policy?

Aside from having a safe, healthy and peaceful workplace, the employers will be able to:

  • Build better relationships with employees by letting them know that there is support available
  • Raise awareness of alcohol and drug issues, and encourage staff to take action in providing solutions
  • Increase productivity level and reduce staff turnover
  • Experience a rise in efficiency, improved relationship among the staff, better communication and a very much improved corporate image

Not all companies are obliged to implement an alcohol and drug testing policy. However, certain industries are required to adhere to such policy because they involve jobs intended for the general public such as aviation, transportation, and mining, to name a few.

FAA Alcohol and Drug Testing Program

airplane drug and alcohol testing policy

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assures that they comply with safety standards to help protect the public and keep our skies safe. Such testing policy has been strictly implemented through the Omnibus Transportation Employees Testing Act of 1991, alongside regulations by the Department of Transportation.

In line with this, alcohol and drug testing regulations are strictly imposed to all employees in the aviation industry to ensure that every employee is fit to perform his duties.

FAA Regulated Employees

The FAA regulations require a regulated employer to make sure that any individual performing safety-sensitive jobs by contract should undergo a FAA-mandated drug and alcohol testing program. Here are the types of safety-sensitive jobs that are covered by the FAA’s drug and alcohol testing program:

  • Aircraft dispatcher
  • Aircraft maintenance
  • Air traffic control
  • Air tour operators
  • Aviation screening employees
  • Flight crewmember
  • Flight attendant
  • Flight instructor
  • Part 119 Certificate Holders
  • Part 145 Certificate Holders
  • FAA Repair Stations employees

FAA-mandated drug and alcohol testing program must include the following:

  • No one should be hired or transferred to a safety-sensitive job without having to undergo a pre-employment drug test and should receive a negative test result.
  • There should be a drug and alcohol record check after securing an employer’s written consent.
  • Employees or applicants that are about to take a position for any safety-sensitive function should be checked if they have previously tested positive or have refused to undergo pre-employment drug or alcohol test.
  • Employees should receive enough information about the effects and consequences of drug abuse and alcohol misuse. This includes training the supervisors so they will be able to determine situations that may have been caused by alcohol or drug use.
  • Make sure that employees will undergo random drug testing, which should be conducted at a minimum rate of 25% for drugs and 10% for alcohol.
  • Implementing such policy should include all individuals performing safety-sensitive occupations. Aircraft maintenance employees are also included.

Refusal of an employee to undergo drug and alcohol testing will result to any of the following:

  • Immediate removal from safety-sensitive duties
  • Termination
  • Revocation of FAA certificate, rating authorization

Employers are required to report to the FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon all employees who refuse to submit to drug and alcohol testing. This is applicable to any safety-sensitive employee or applicant who holds a Part 61, Part 63, or Part 65 Airman Certificate.

It is considered a violation of the FAA’s drug and alcohol testing regulation if an employee has:

  • Verified positive drug test result
  • Misused alcohol
  • Refused to submit to the required testing

plane in the sky drug and alcohol testing

Random Drug and Alcohol Testing

The selection of employees for random testing should be made by a scientifically valid method and that all safety-sensitive employees are included in the random testing pool.

An employee cannot be forced to undergo drug testing based on suspicion. This is why supervisors need to have sufficient training to be able to determine if an individual’s actions are related to any signs of working under the influence.

Once all significant information has been collected, an employee will then be asked to submit himself for drug and alcohol testing for confirmation. If an employee is found to be positive for drugs and/or alcohol, he will immediately be requested to stop working and will be sent home.

Drug and alcohol testing is done under direct supervision of a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to ensure that specimens for testing cannot be tampered and that proper collection can be done.


See Also: What is a Medical Review Officer?


Drug and Alcohol Program

Implementing drug and alcohol testing policies includes a program wherein employees are given seminars to inform about the dangers of substance abuse. Through this program, employees found to be positive with drugs and/or alcohol are given assistance by referring them to a rehabilitation center where they can be treated.

The treatment may range from a few weeks to a month. An after-treatment program may also be offered to ensure that the employee can get back to his normal life and avoid having a relapse.

Returning to work after violating FAA drug and alcohol testing regulations

Employees cannot return to their safe-sensitive functions without having to take the following procedure:

  • Employers must provide the employee a list of Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP). Once the employee has chosen a SAP, a face-to-face evaluation will be set up. The SAP should be able to provide a complete written report that includes the recommended education and treatment, and the content of the evaluation.
  • After undergoing treatment, the SAP needs to perform a re-evaluation to assess if the employee has successfully completed education and treatment. The SAP will then write a written report to the employer indicating the findings from the re-evaluation.
  • Prior to returning to the employee’s safety-sensitive work, he needs to undergo a return-to duty drug test under the direct observation. The said employee should produce a verified negative test result. In terms of alcohol testing, the worker should have an alcohol concentration of less than 0.02.
  • Follow-up drug and alcohol testing will be done under direct supervision as directed by SAP.

On-duty alcohol use violation will permanently disqualify the employee from performing safe-sensitive duties.

The employer will provide the list of Substance Abuse Professionals to an employee who has been found to be positive with alcohol or drugs during the testing. The payment for hiring a SAP is upon the discretion of the employer. Some employers may shoulder the cost, request the employee to share half of the cost, or completely require the employee to pay the whole amount.

Return-To-Work Compliance

It is the responsibility of any employee that has been found to be positive with illicit substances to comply with all the safety requirements prior to returning to work. Otherwise, he may be subject to legal enforcement action.

FAA regulations prohibit anyone performing safety-sensitive functions after a violation until the employee has completed the return-to-duty requirements described in 49 CFR part 40, subpart O.

Revoked Certificates

Any individual whose certificate has been revoked needs to re-apply and meet all the necessary requirement. For reapplication, individuals must refer to the Flight District Office.

flight safety for passengers

Will other future employers know about the positive result of a drug and/or alcohol?

There should be a complete disclosure with regards to alcohol and drug tests. Employers are required by law to provide records of the employee’s DOT drug and alcohol testing history to the new employer.

However, this is allowed only when the employee signs a specific written release regarding that information. This serves as the new employer’s basis of hiring the applicant. This will also allow the new employer to know if the employee was able to meet the return-to-work procedure.

Conclusion

Implementing a drug and alcohol testing policy ensures a safe environment for all. It is a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

It will cost employers significantly, for sure. However, comparing it to the loss of revenue with having to deal with frequent mishaps or injuries in the workplace, paying for drug and alcohol testing sounds less painful.

Besides, customers will feel more confident to fly with airline companies whose employees are strictly chosen and screened for drugs.