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Drug Testing Maritime Industry part 4

13 Dec 2014

... Coast Guard Post Accident Drug and Alcohol Testing ...

What do you need to know to perform drug and alcohol testing in the maritime industry?  Part 4

Part 1 of this series

Part 2 of this series

Part 3 of this series 

This article will discuss how required drug and alcohol testing is to be conducted, including how and when as well as with required time frames.

Whenever a Serious Marine Incident (SMI) event occurs as described in the previous article, there is a requirement for the marine employer to conduct drug and alcohol tests on personnel whose actions cannot be discounted as contributing to the accident or was a causal factor leading to the accident.  This can include the vessel Master/Captain and senior ship officers.

Drug Tests:

Any and all drug tests have to be conducted with all the applicable regulations in 49 CFR 40.  The CCF will be marked post-accident and shipped to the SAMHSA accredited laboratory for analysis.  That is the same as for the other DOT Modal Agencies. The results of the drug test(s) will be turned over to the Investigating Officer after review by the MRO.  Those results will become part of the Investigation Report for the SMI.

There is additional testing that may take place per USCG Authority. The Investigating Officer on scene can request that all the collected specimens to be held by the laboratory that received the drug test specimens, depending on the SMI. This request will be for all specimens with tests results that are negative or non-negative. If the SMI is high profile or if the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is involved doing the accident investigation, that request will happen and will be honored by the laboratory.  The laboratory will retain the specimens until they have been authorized to be released.   The Coast Guard Drug and Alcohol Program Manager retains this authority.

If the Investigating Officer or NTSB request that additional testing be done on the retained specimens, that request is then forwarded to the Coast Guard Drug and Alcohol Program Manager.  It should be noted that NTSB does not have the authority to request that testing but they have to initiate the request through the Coast Guard Investigating Officer.

Once the request is received by the Coast Guard Drug and Alcohol Program Manager, the laboratory holding the specimens will forward only Bottle A to another federally owned laboratory to do analysis for additional drugs.  The DOT ODAPC Office will concur in this request and release the control of the specimens to Coast Guard. The laboratory receiving the specimen(s) will test for additional drugs with their report going to the Coast Guard Drug and Alcohol Program Manager.  There are no cutoff levels and a MRO will not be involved in a review of those additional tests.  Because some of the readers will be concerned about the presence of drugs, there are medical doctors available within Coast Guard that can assist in making a determination as to the cause and effect of any drugs that may be present. 

This testing is for investigative purposes and the report will be forwarded to the Investigating Officer and NTSB for inclusion in the investigation report particularly if any drugs were present. If present, a determination will be made about the presence of drugs and if those drugs were a causal factor contributing to the SMI.

A future article will detail why the Coast Guard can do this additional testing while other DOT modal agencies cannot.

Alcohol Testing:

Alcohol testing is part of the investigation into causal factors that caused or led to a SMI.  Alcohol testing has to be conducted within two hours of the time of the SMI on all crewmembers whose negligence cannot be discounted as contributing to the SMI.

The two hour time exemption applies if there are safety concerns that have to be met for the preservation of life or property.  If any of those circumstances exist, the alcohol testing has to be conducted within 8 hours of the time of the SMI or as soon as the safety concerns have been addressed.  Examples of safety concerns would be putting out a fire onboard the vessel, preventing the vessel from sinking, or saving a life or lives.  After 8 hours have elapsed from the time of the SMI, alcohol testing is no longer required.

The alcohol test can be conducted using an alcohol screen test devices that is on the current conforming products list published in the Federal Register by National Highway traffic safety administration (NHTSA).  The list is published on an irregular basis but can be found at http://www.dot.gov/odapc/documents.  Click on the link titled “Conforming Product list for Alcohol Screening Devices” which will take you to the current list.  You will also see a link titled “Conforming Products List for Evidential Breath Testing Devices”.

Two of the listed devices are commonly used in the maritime industry on small passenger vessels because they are inexpensive and easy to us.  The two are:

1. Q.E.D. A150 Saliva Alcohol Test, manufactured by Orasure Technologies, Inc., Bethlehem, PA; and

2.  ALCO-SCREEN .02 Detection System, manufactured by Chematics, Inc., North Webster, IN.

These are not the only listed alcohol screen devices but are the ones most frequently found in the maritime industry.

Some important facts about the use of these devices are:

  1. These devices expire so the marine employer or if supplied by the C/TPA, should pay attention to the expiration dates so they can have devices on hand that are within their useful dates of use.  This item will be checked by a Coast Guard Investigating Officer at the time of the incident. If expired the marine employer can face law enforcement action.
  2. The marine employer needs to keep these units in storage places that are not subject to temperature extremes, it is recommended that they be kept at room temperature.
  3. If these devices are stored in a refrigerator, the devices need to be brought to room temperature prior to being used.
  4. No formal training is required to use these devices. If the marine employer/captain can read a nautical map chart, they can read the directions for use on the device.
  5. If the test result shows the presence of alcohol, that result is to be recorded on the CG-2692B (Report of Required Chemical Drug and Alcohol Testing Following a Serous Marine Incident).
  6. 6.      No confirmation test is required.  This test is a tool for investigation with the results contributing to the accident determinations and findings.  If the test result shows the presence of alcohol, the Investigating Officer will conduct an investigation and look for other signs of alcohol use on board the vessel by the crewmember or crewmembers.

If there are comments or concerns, please post them on LinkedIn with this article or with the other articles that I have written, I will respond to all questions and concerns.

The next article will cover the forms that are required to be completed for a Serious Marine Incident testing.

About Bob Schoening

Robert Schoening is well renowned for his knowledge and influence in the drug-testing arena. As the Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the US Coast Guard (December 2001-March 2013) he developed and managed a successful drug testing program for the marine industry nationwide and internationally.  During this time he developed and implemented a new compliance audit checklist as well as the writing and publishing a new Marine Employers Guidebook for Drug Testing.  He is also the author of the federal regulation commonly known as the two-hour alcohol testing for maritime incidents.