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Top 5 FAA Frequently Asked Employer Questions - FAQs

18 Apr 2016

FAQ 1:

What are the training requirements for my employees and supervisors? 

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) drug and alcohol testing regulation establishes the requirements for training both safety-sensitive employees and supervisors who will make reasonable cause/suspicion testing determinations.

The training requirements for a drug testing program requires that each employer must implement initial training for employees that includes the effects and consequences of drug use on personal health, safety, and work environment; the manifestations and behavioral cues that may indicate drug use and abuse; and requires the employer to document that the training was given to employees and employer's supervisory personnel.

In addition to the employee training, each employer must implement initial and recurrent supervisory training for personnel who will determine when an employee is subject to testing based on reasonable cause. The training must include the specific, contemporaneous physical, behavioral, and performance indicators of probable drug use. Employers must ensure that supervisors who will make reasonable cause determinations receive at least 60 minutes of initial training and receive recurrent training at reasonable intervals. Although a timeframe for reasonable recurrent training is not defined, we believe that it is a best practice to conduct the recurrent training on a 12-18 month schedule.

The training requirements for an alcohol testing program are slightly different than those for a drug testing program. Specifically, each employer must provide educational materials that explain the alcohol misuse requirements and the employer's policies and procedures with respect to meeting those requirements. Please refer to the regulation for further requirements for the distribution and content of the educational materials.

Supervisors who make reasonable suspicion determinations for alcohol testing must receive at least 60 minutes of training on the physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators of probable alcohol misuse. Although the regulation does not require recurrent training for supervisors making reasonable suspicion alcohol determinations, we believe the best practice is to include a review of the alcohol testing requirements while conducting recurrent reasonable cause drug testing training.

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance that is more specific to your situation, please contact National Drug Screening at 866.843.4545 .

Applicable Regulations:
14 CFR § 120.115
14 CFR § 120.223

FAQ 2:

What is the process of setting up a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-mandated drug and alcohol testing program?

According to the FAA's drug and alcohol testing regulation (14 CFR part 120), an employer (i.e., a part 119 certificate holder with authority to operate under parts 121 and/or 135, an operator as defined in 14 CFR § 91.147, or an air traffic control facility not operated by the FAA or under contract to the U.S. Military) or a contractor who chooses to implement its own testing program must ensure that any employee performing the following safety-sensitive functions directly or by contract (including subcontract at any tier) is subject to drug and alcohol testing:

•     flight crewmember duties,
•     flight attendant duties,
•     flight instruction duties,
•     aircraft dispatcher duties,
•     aircraft maintenance and preventive maintenance duties,
•     ground security coordinator duties,
•     aviation screening duties, and
•     air traffic control duties.
•     operations control specialist duties

The individuals who are performing these safety-sensitive functions must be subject to pre-employment testing, reasonable suspicion/cause testing, random testing, return-to-duty testing, follow-up testing, and post-accident testing. The testing procedures are established in the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Workplace Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs, Title 49 CFR part 40.

When developing your drug and alcohol testing program, you must:

  • First obtain the applicable Operations Specifications paragraph or drug and alcohol testing program registration as described in 14 CFR §§ 120.117 and 120.225.
  • Ensure that no one is hired for or transferred into a safety-sensitive function without first being pre-employment drug tested and receiving a negative test result. More information regarding pre-employment testing may be found in 14 CFR § 120.109(a). Pre-employment alcohol testing is not required, but may be implemented according to 14 CFR § 120.217(a).
  • Educate and train your employees on the effects and consequences of drug abuse and alcohol misuse. More information regarding training and materials may be found in 14 CFR §§ 120.115 and 120.223.
  • Ensure that employees are placed into the random drug and alcohol testing pool and have an equal chance of being tested each time selections are made. More information regarding random testing may be found in 14 CFR §§ 120.109(b) and 120.217(c).

There are many more requirements of the drug and alcohol testing regulations. It is important to understand that some requirements must be implemented prior to commencing operations.

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance that is more specific to your situation, please contact National Drug Screening at 866.843.4545 .

Applicable Regulations:
14 CFR part 120
49 CFR part 40

FAQ 3:

What constitutes a post-accident test? What is the definition of an accident?

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) drug and alcohol testing regulation (14 CFR part 120) describes when an employer is required to conduct and when an employee must submit to post-accident drug and/or alcohol testing.

As soon as practicable following an accident, each employer must test each surviving safety-sensitive employee for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines, or a metabolite of those drugs in the employee's system, and for alcohol, if that employee's performance either contributed to the accident or cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to the accident.

For post-accident drug testing, the employee must be tested as soon as possible but not later than 32 hours after the accident.

For post-accident alcohol testing, the employee must be tested as soon as possible but the time of testing cannot exceed 8 hours from the time of the accident. If a test is not administered within 2 hours following the accident, the employer must prepare and maintain on file a record stating the reasons why the test was not promptly administered. If a test is not administered within 8 hours following the accident, the employer must cease attempts to administer an alcohol test and must prepare and maintain the same record.

The decision not to administer a test must be based on the employer's determination, using the best information available at the time of the determination, that the employee's performance could not have contributed to the accident.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) define an accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, AND in which any person suffers death or serious injury or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage. The NTSB regulations (49 CFR part 830) define "serious injury" and "substantial damage" as follows:

"Serious injury means any injury which: (1) Requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received; (2) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose); (3) causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; (4) involves any internal organ; or (5) involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface."

"Substantial damage means damage or failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft, and which would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component. Engine failure or damage limited to an engine if only one engine fails or is damaged, bent fairings or cowling, dented skin, small punctured holes in the skin or fabric, ground damage to rotor or propeller blades, and damage to landing gear, wheels, tires, flaps, engine accessories, brakes, or wingtips are not considered "substantial damage" for the purpose of this part."

Monetary damage is not a factor in determining what constitutes an "accident."

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance that is more specific to your situation, please contact National Drug Screening at 866.843.4545 .

Applicable Regulations:
14 CFR § 120.7
14 CFR § 120.109(c)
14 CFR § 120.217(b)

49 CFR § 830.2

FAQ 4:

I am trying to complete a drug and alcohol records check on a potential employee, but I am having trouble contacting their previous employer. What should I do?

According to the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) procedural regulation, 49 CFR Part 40, §40.25(h), the employer from whom information is requested must transmit the information immediately. If you have attempted to obtain the drug and alcohol records for an individual you intend to use to perform safety-sensitive duties, but the former employer is not responsive to your request for records, you are required to show that you have made a "good faith effort" to obtain the records. We recommend that you document your attempts to obtain the information, and you need to maintain those documents, with the written request, for three years from the date the employee first performs safety-sensitive duties for you.

If you are having trouble finding the current contact information for a previous employer or want to confirm that the information you have is current, you may contact the FAA's Drug Abatement Division via email (drugabatement@faa.gov) or telephone (202-267-8442). We may be able to provide you with alternative contact information, or we can investigate why the previous employer did not respond to your request. To do this, please provide a copy of your written request and any documentation to support your efforts to obtain the information. You may submit your documentation via email to drugabatement@faa.gov or via fax to 202-267-5200.

Keep in mind that if the previous employer went out of business or is no longer active (e.g., they are a contractor that no longer performs safety-sensitive functions and cancelled their registration), the drug and alcohol records request requirements no longer apply. In this case, you would document your efforts to obtain the information as described above.

If the employee is a pilot, the Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA) requirements would apply and are slightly different. For a non-response, you must make three attempts to obtain the records within a 30-day period and document them as your "good faith effort" to obtain the records. You may report a non-response to the PRIA program manager, who will determine if the former employer is still in business. Furthermore, you are required to request the last five years of results (including negative and non-negatives).

More guidance on the drug and alcohol records check is included in the DOT's pamphlet titled "What Employers Need to Know About DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing".  You can also visit the DOT's Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance webpage for additional information. 

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance that is more specific to your situation, please contact National Drug Screening at 866.843.4545 .

Applicable Regulation:
49 CFR § 40.25 
Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996 (PRIA) (49 USC § 44703(h))

FAQ 5:

Is an employer required to perform audits of its service agents (e.g., collection site, Medical Review Officer, or Substance Abuse Professional) to ensure compliance?

Although the regulations do not require an employer to audit its service agent(s), we believe it is a good business practice. The employer is responsible for compliance with the regulations even when using a service agent. Therefore, conducting an annual, or semi-annual, audit is a good practice to ensure the service agent is compliant with the regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Drug and Alcohol Compliance and Enforcement Inspector Handbook, Order 9120.1B includes helpful tools for conducting inspections of service agents.

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance that is more specific to your situation, please contact National Drug Screening at 866.843.4545 .

Applicable Regulations:
49 CFR § 40.15
14 CFR § 120.103(c)
14 CFR § 120.203(c)