FAA Drug Abatement Program Best Practices

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5 September 2023

FAA Drug Abatement Program Best Practices

At first the FAA Drug Abatement Program can seem burdensome for employers and employees in the aviation industry. After all, this comprehensive workplace drug testing and alcohol testing program requires stringent compliance with 49 CFR part 40, “Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug Testing Programs” and 14 CFR part 120, “Drug and Alcohol Testing Program.” (Learn more in What Is An FAA Drug Abatement Program Inspection?).

But, the purpose behind these requirements is to ensure the safety of the traveling public and everyone working in the aviation industry. With this purpose in mind, compliance should feel less like a burden and more like a social responsibility.

Here are some best practices that will help ensure compliance with the FAA Drug Abatement Program becomes ingrained in your company’s culture as a natural part of day-to-day operations.

Commit to a Drug-free Workplace

Having a drug-free workplace shows that you value the safety of your employees and the traveling public.

Base your efforts to maintain a drug-free workplace on something more than just following the regulations. People understand and value occupational health and safety for themselves and others. When your employees see that you are committed to their safety and wellbeing they will also see the value in committing time and effort towards a comprehensive drug education and testing program in the workplace. (Learn more in Everything Employers Need To Know About Workplace Drug Testing).

With this approach, the time and effort required is no longer an inconvenience or interruption to day-to-day operations. It’s an investment in everyone’s wellbeing.

Put the Right People in Key Positions

The most obvious key position is the Designated Employer Representative (DER). This is your company’s point person for administering its drug and alcohol testing program. This person needs to be knowledgeable and responsible. It’s also a best practice to appoint someone who is not in a safety-sensitive position as the DER. You don’t want a person who is subject to workplace drug and alcohol testing program responsible for running that program. That will present a conflict of interest at some point.

Less obvious is that every supervisor plays some kind of role in administering the workplace drug and alcohol testing program. Supervisors are most likely the first people contacted when an employee is involved in an on-the-job incident or suspected of being under the influence at work. For this reason, every supervisor working, whether working with people in safety-sensitive jobs or not, needs to understand the importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace.

While it’s difficult to know everything about the FAA Drug Abatement Program and keep up-to-date on the regulations, you don’t have to go it alone. By contracting with a qualified Service Agent you are adding a team of experts to your drug-free workplace team. Service Agents can help manage all aspects of your company’s program, including employee education, drug and alcohol testing, administrative duties, and FAA inspections.

Free Download: What Your Company's Drug and Alcohol Policy May Be Missing (and How to Get It Right)

Know Your Company’s Responsibilities

The regulations behind the FAA Drug Abatement Program are complex and wide-reaching. They cover an employee from before they are hired (e.g. pre-employment drug testing) through and even after an accident or any drug rehab (e.g. return-to-duty program). Your company must make sure that employees complete drug and alcohol testing at every applicable stage of employment, including participating in random testing.

Never lose sight of the fact that you, the employer, are ultimately and statutorily responsible for making sure your company is in compliance with safety regulations and responds properly to any infractions. Even if you contract a Service Agent, you, as the employer, are ultimately responsible and will be held liable if your company’s program is out of compliance.

Train Your Employees About Drugs in the Workplace

Everyone in the workplace plays a role in maintaining safety, whether they are in a safety-sensitive job or not. The best way to help your employees fulfill this role is to make sure they understand the importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace, how to recognize drug use and when someone might be under the influence, and what to do when they suspect someone is under the influence at work. (Learn more in Empowering Your Workforce With Reasonable Suspicion Training).

Formal, documented training is one way to ensure your employees understand the company’s drug and alcohol testing program and their role in maintaining a drug-free workplace. Such training needs to be tailored to the employee’s job and role. For example, a supervisor of people in safety-sensitive jobs needs a different level of training than a mechanic. This training is required under the drug abatement program. Your Service Agent can work with your Human Resources department to develop and deliver the training tailored to your company’s needs.

Realize also that training is not a one time thing. Employees will need to receive regular updates and refreshers.

Take Immediate Corrective Action When an Incident Occurs

No matter the time of day or night, when there is an incident or an employee is suspected of being under the influence while at work, there must be an immediate response.

The DER and Service Agent must make sure that a drug or alcohol test is administered when there is an incident or an employee is suspected of being under the influence at work. Standard procedures must be followed so that your company remains compliant and workplace safety is restored.

Contact the FAA Abatement Office with Questions

With the complexity of the FAA Drug Abatement Program it’s natural that questions will arise. You can contact The FAA Drug Abatement team when you have questions. They will point you to resources, address your questions, and help you establish a strong drug abatement program that keeps your company in compliance.

Ensuring the safety of the flying public and those working in the aviation industry is a worthy objective beyond just meeting regulatory requirements. Follow these best practices and your employees will understand the connection between a drug-free workplace and a safe workplace.