As part of the United States Department of Transportation’s commitment to providing safety to workers and the public, illegal substance screening is needed for what the agency considers “safety-sensitive” workers. These workers work as part of the team that helps provide transportation services on the roads, in the air, in the water, and across the rails – both underground and overland. Current Department of Labor screening practices is a result of a law called the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, that was passed in 1991 by the United States Congress.
The law required the Department of Transportation agencies to implement strict alcohol and drug testing for workers who are in a safety-sensitive work environment. To comply with the law, the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance or the ODAPC established rules and regulations on how to the test should be conducted, as well as the testing and how to report the procedure.
To find out the states with strict alcohol laws, check out https://www.insider.com/states-with-strict-alcohol-laws-2019-1 for more details.
Who are the people subjected to these drug tests?
According to the employee handbook on drug and alcohol testing procedures from the Department of Transportation, their goal is to get the help of operators who are 100% alcohol- and drug-free. But operators are not the only employees subjected to these screening procedures.
Any position considered that are considered as safety-sensitive, will fall under the screening requirements. The agency looks at duties and tasks, not just titles when determining whether the job position qualifies as a safety-sensitive position or not. Some of these tasks include:
Working on pipelines
Operating trains, buses, or ferries
In addition to workers like security guards and flight attendants, are also required by the department to undergo screening. Any position that involves jobs that could impact the safety of transport passengers or workers is included in the department’s regulations.
What substances does the department test for?
The procedure is conducted for both drugs and alcohol. The substances that the department tests look for include:
Marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinol
Amphetamines including meth or methamphetamine
Phencyclidine or PCP
According to numbers from the department, amphetamines and cannabis were at the top of the list of widely used substances because of the screening for commercial vehicle drivers in 2015. All in all, positive results remain pretty low for commercial vehicle drivers.
To know more about PCPs, click here for more information.
What screening is used for department testing?
They use a urine sample collection, and they test exclusively for the illegal substance. Alcohol may be included in the test for using saliva and breath. All these testing methods used by the agency are non-intrusive.
When is these testing conducted?
There are a lot of situations when DOT workers may be subjected to the screening. The most common case includes:
All newly hired personnel for safety-sensitive jobs need to complete the process of drug testing successfully. Screening for alcohol is optional at the discretion of the company. Before a new employee can start doing any safety-sensitive tasks, the company needs to get a negative drug screening result from a strict Department of Transportation drug testing for their office file.
The same requirements apply for workers starting a new position or employees transferring to different departments. If a supervisor or the manager suspects that their employees are high on illegal drugs or drunk, they can request a substance screening. The procedure will not be granted if it is only based on a hunch.
The company needs to have a valid reason for that – the law requires them to get a valid reason before conducting any test for its employees. Call it employee protection. The management’s suspicion needs to be based on actual observed behavior that is usually associated with the influence of drugs or alcohol. These types of behaviors may include appearance or scent of alcohol or slurred speech.
Random alcohol and drug screening may be conducted by the company any time, but they can’t subject their workers to random tests without their consent simply because of a hunch, or they want to. The use of random drug testing needs to be truly random, and every worker needs to have an equal chance of getting picked.
What conduct is not allowed by regulations?
The purpose of these strict requirements is to make sure that employees working in safety-sensitive positions do not use illegal substances or alcohol while performing safety-sensitive tasks. As part of these efforts, some behavior is prohibited. These employees can’t report for duty or stay on the job while they are high as a kite with illegal substances or drunk as a fish.
Under the influence – Workers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or above are not allowed to work or perform their tasks. A lot of workers can’t be drunk within three to four hours of reporting for the job. For people working as flight attendants or flight crew, the work ban is a lot longer.
Drug uses – Workers may not report or stay on duty if they have used any forms of controlled substances, especially illegal drugs like amphetamines or cannabis. Some controlled drugs might be allowed under strict guidance from medical professionals.