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Frequently Asked Questions

When to Pre-employment Test

If you are a company mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration the answer is BEFORE you hire, train, or upgrade someone for a safety-sensitive position. Regulations imposed in the first part of 2004 require that companies obtain a negative test result before they can begin any training and or any of the hiring/upgrading process.

If you are an FAA mandated company and you hire someone for a non-safety-sensitive position you may skip the federal pre-employment drug test prior to hiring, so long as you do not intend to upgrade the individual immediately upon passing the drug test.

Some non-regulated or trucking companies have been running into problems with new-hires. They have hired an individual to do maintenance and they allow for them to do uncovered functions until the drug test result comes back. The employee fails the test and the employer lets the employee go. The employee then tries to claim they were fired unjustly and goes after the company.

Try to stipulate to all new hires that a job will ONLY be offered if they pass the drug test and try not to let them start any work until you have the result in your hand. Safety-Sensitive work requires a negative drug test result prior to beginning any work. If you can draft a form and have them sign that they are agreeing to this, it may help if they try and claim they were unjustly treated. This has become a financial problem for employers and we want everyone to be able to hire a drug free workforce and not be penalized for it.

If you are thinking of skipping that test altogether, or delaying it to see if the person is worthwhile, think again. Last word was an $11,000 fine per incident.

Referral Bonuses

Membership and testing need not be costly at all. When you are a member in good standing and you refer a company which signs up with us you will receive a $50.00 credit toward services. It is our way of thanking you for giving our name out. Your company can give out as many leads as you want. Apply them to renewal fees or tests.

(Note: The credits are not transferable and cannot be redeemed for cash, nor can they be cashed out if your membership is terminated for any reason.)

A Warning from the FAA

Pre-employment tests are viewed the same to the FAA no matter if the donor has been "hired" yet or not. A positive test holds the same penalties.

A positive, or refusal to test result means a referral to a DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is required as well as all the return to duty and follow-up steps. Positive and refusal results on Pre-employment tests hold the same penalties as any other positive or refusal to test.

Always ensure that when an employee is not hired because of a positive test that they understand these are the steps they must undertake to be hired either by your office or another aviation or DOT entity. Persons holding a Part 67 medical certificate will be required to be reported to the Federal Air Surgeon and must await the ruling from that department. A mechanic holding an A&P License which refuses or adulterates a test will also be reported to the Federal Air Surgeon and will incur any penalty that department enforces.

Bottom line, don't forget the SAP evaluation, approval to return to work, and all tests required for the return to duty and follow up test process.

Are You Using Testable Vendors?

Companies are neglecting to ensure that certain types of parts and repairs are covered by a company (or any sub-contractor - at any tier, with or without the knowledge of the original company) which has an approved drug and alcohol program. When Drug Abatement comes out to do inspections they go through your maintenance logs to see who you have been using for repairs and replacement items for your aircraft. This is a random check. They will verify that these companies are listed as having a registered drug and alcohol program. If they don't you can be looking at a fineable offense. Some hot spots they asked us to warn you about are the following items:

Do your vendors refill oxygen bottles, fire extinguishers, repair life vests, perform aircraft painting, or repair upholstery?

Do your vendors outsource your repair? Does the outsourced company have an FAA Drug and Alcohol Testing Program? You need to know this. If the individual is not under a covered program then you may need to add them to yours in order for the repair to be able to be done. Although this rule has always been there it is a clarification ruling that went into effect in April of 2006. Ensure you review the federal regulations carefully or contact your consortium for more help.

Ensure you contact your vendors (at any tier) on occasion to verify they still have a valid plan. Request proof of current status and keep these documents in your records to show to a drug abatement auditor upon request.

The Drug of Choice

The drug of choice is still Marijuana. Some experts want to say it is not a gateway drug while officers who work in drug enforcement know that it is. Marijuana is also mixed with other illegal substances or alcohol for an even greater high. PCP is put into marijuana cigarettes and then taken prior to drinking. The fatal drawback to alcohol and marijuana together is that marijuana halts the function to vomit. If an individual has consumed enough alcohol to be toxic the body cannot purge itself, thus killing the individual.

Marijuana has a very distinct odor. You can smell it in the hair and in the clothes. Pockets turned inside out will sometimes show seeds and leaves from the plant. The user will normally have red eyes. They lack motor skills.

A test was done on 10 pilots in a controlled study. They were taught a flight pattern on a simulator for 8 hours over and over again. They flew it perfectly. They were given a joint each to smoke after they were done and sent home. They returned the next day and each one of the ten pilots crashed the simulator somewhere in the pattern. They all said they got lost in the routine and could not recover.

It goes to show you don't have to be consuming the drug at that minute to be under the influence of it.

Methamphetamine Use On The Rise On West Coast

Methamphetamine use is up on the West Coast of the United States. The states with the increase are California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.

Methamphetamine (Meth) is a drug that is pure chemical. It is not organic in any form. Most of the chemicals used in making methamphetamine are lethal in themselves, much less mixed together.

A user under the influence of this drug is very active. They may not be able to sleep. Some users have stayed up for days at a time. This does not mean they will accomplish more. They may be fast but they will have more errors. If they are snorting this drug they will have a red septum in the nasal area. They may have sores on the body. Their tongue may be coated. If asked to close their eyes most cannot do it without their eyelids trembling.

Some users become so "spun" from this drug that the police are called in to help them cope.

Teen Drug Use is Down Pre-Teen Use Is Up

Teenage use for illicit drugs is dropping slightly, however pre-teen use is UP! We are failing to educate the very young when this is a national figure. The rate of current hallucinogen use nearly doubled among the pre-teens 12 to 17 between 1994 and 1996.

Education starts at home. Read all you can to your young children about drugs and alcohol. Teach them it is okay to say no. They don't need to use drugs and alcohol to "belong". They can be themselves.

Drugs from the sixties were very weak in comparison to the drugs of today. A parent who smoked weed as a kid may think it is a right of passage for their kid. Not true. Weed today is 20 times stronger than it used to be. The dealers have learned how to grow hybrid crops with so much THC in the plant the individual is not only getting higher but they are damaging their bodies like the youth of the sixties didn't.

One Marijuana cigarette is like one pack of regular cigarettes. Those who smoke pot for many years are getting problems and symptoms of lifelong cigarette smokers.

We need to stop this trend.

Phencyclidine - PCP - On the Rise

No drug quite causes the violence and unpredictable behavior as does this drug. It was popular quite a while back but is making itself seen again in larger numbers. Some ways this drug is taken is to be laced in a marijuana cigarette and smoked. An individual who is under the influence of this drug will appear to be under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant or hallucinogen.

The compounds to make this drug are almost all household-like in nature. Recipes circulate around to make this dangerous chemical. However they are also very volatile in nature. Most labs burn to the ground before law enforcement can even get there. The one critical ingredient in PCP is piperidine. If this chemical is bought in quantities over five hundred grams an automatic call to the drug enforcement agency is placed.

One way to detect a user of PCP is the familiar blank stare. A user may stay in a motionless position staring at nothing for hours unless interrupted by a motion or a voice. They will also be disoriented and could be unable to participate in a conversation. They can also go from calm to threatening and violent instantly. This is why caution is advised. If you suspect an employee is using PCP it is best to phone in law enforcement to aid you.

After The Positive

If your company policy is such that you intend to lay off any worker who tests positive you can skip this section, as long as you don't expect that positive to be from your best employee.

The numbers are in favor of rehabilitation. Studies have shown that a worker given a fair chance at rehabilitation can come back to be a better employee. Given a second chance on life they are more apt to work harder and be more dedicated. Some tips to remember are:

  • Lay out a plan before you get a positive
  • Have dialog with your employees about your decisions
  • Line up a clinic or counselor your employees may see and decide who will pay the cost
  • Draft a return to work agreement for the employee stating what position they would be hired back to before they begin the long road of recovery
  • Be consistent in your program - treat an assembly line worker the same as you would a key management official
  • Keep information and documents confidential and supervisors properly trained

Scary Stats About Workplace Abuse

The smaller the company the higher the percentage of abuse. I'm sure that's something a small business owner can't believe. Knowing everyone at the business would make it hard to sneak by any drug use, right? Wrong!

A study done by Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has reported lower rates of illicit drug and alcohol use in companies that provide substance-abuse information, have employee access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP'S) and have written policies.

The statistics are larger at 11% of workers in smaller companies having used illicit drugs or alcohol within the last 30 days and only 5.4% of employees used in larger and medium sized companies. We think this alone is reason to have a program at your company.

If you have a company which is not required by federal regulations to test you may choose a variety of options that can help curb drug abuse while at work. You may choose to have a policy - stating your views on use at the job and you may want to institute pre-employment drug testing. If you are doing some sort of testing it would be wise to also incorporate reasonable cause and post-accident testing. For reasonable cause testing the people ordering the test must be trained in the signs and symptoms of abuse, and for post-accident a criteria must be established as to what constitutes a post-accident test. The accident can only fall into the written guidelines to be tested for.

Self Disclosures

What are they and what are they for?

In the case of the drug and alcohol testing program they can possibly save you from thousands of dollars in fines. Who needs this protection from the FAA?

All part 121, 135 and 91.147 certificate holders are required to have a drug and alcohol program in place for their company. There is no way around this.

Part 145 certificate holders only need a plan if they are doing work for Part 121, 135, or 91.147 carriers. If you are only doing work for Part 91 then you do not have to have a plan. However, if you want to do work for those type of carriers you cannot until you have an acceptable DOT drug and alcohol program in place. Anyone which will be performing safety-sensitive duties will need to be sent for a pre-employment drug test and receive a negative result prior to beginning and work.

A Part 91.147 means sightseeing operators operating under Part 91. This is an area where the FAA is really cracking down. Some operators do not think it applies to them and they don't have a plan in place. It doesn't matter how far you fly from your base airport. As soon as you take money for a sightseeing flight you become required to have a FAA registered drug and alcohol testing program. If the FAA discovers that you do not have a program first then you will lose your right to a self-disclosure.

The self-disclosure comes into play when companies notice they have made an error and bring it to the FAA's attention in hopes of a lighter penalty. They cannot wait until they are being investigated. Once the FAA has found out your error you cannot self-disclose. Once you are notified of a standard audit by the Drug Abatement Division it also too late to request a self-disclosure.

Some errors which you would want to self-disclose:

  • You were operating as a required certificate holder without a program in place.
  • You signed up with us (or are still going at it alone) and you want to admit you were not doing it as required by the FAA rules and regulations.
  • Your employees were not tested prior to duty and you had (or have) no random program in place. If caught this can be a fine of $4,000 to $20,000 for a small company - per violation - per day. I'm sure this can bankrupt quite a few companies.

The FAA is putting together a process right now to catch offenders who have neglected to set up a registered drug and alcohol program. They are cross referencing their data base to see what certificate holders do not have an anti-drug and alcohol program listed with them. These investigations are ongoing. Once you are sent a letter if you went without a program prior to signing up with us, or currently do not have one now, you will likely be caught.

We cannot say your company will not incur a fine for self-disclosing but it will be significantly less. A self-disclosure means you are telling them you made an error and you outline the steps of how you will go about correcting it. The idea is that they will go lighter on you.

Bringing out a skeleton that may never be seen and take punishment for it is a very important decision in any company. This must be discussed with the owners of the company and decided if you want to go forward with it.

If you are a new start-up and began your initial testing program with us before you performed any safety-sensitive duties then you are fine. You have always had a registered program in place.

If you transferred from another program recently and have always been covered (providing your old consortium did everything right) you should be fine.

If you had a current operation and heard through the grapevine you needed a program and signed up with us then you need to seriously look at self-disclosing.

If you know of a company who is more than likely in violation please have them read this article so we can get them covered and on the road to compliance. (This will also get your company a referral bonus, if you are a current member)

If you are unsure as to what we explained please contact us or if you are a company not covered by our program we can see if you need to self-disclose any discrepancies and get you in a program and compliant today!

Safety-Sensitive Position

What is a testable Employee Function?

We have been told by the FAA's compliance and enforcement division that classifying employees incorrectly is a problem. Employers are getting in trouble for either putting incorrect employees in the random pool or missing testable employees entirely. You cannot put someone in the pool just because you choose to. They can only be in the pool if they are required to be there due to the duties they perform. When a person is put in the pool which does not belong in there, they take away the chance of a required person from being picked for a random test. This is called dilution of the pool.

You can look up some definitions in 49 CFR Part 120. Each company can specify what they believe is safety-sensitive in their company's FAA approved maintenance manuals. If you repair or overhaul a part you are required to be tested. If you manufacture a new part you are not required.

Fuelers who do nothing but put fuel in and tow an airplane are not required. If they do an oil change or refill an oxygen bottle then they are.

Painters are required.

It is a tough decision especially when it comes to mechanics on what is testable. A person who cleans up around the hangar would not be testable. Parts stocking would be a tough determination depending on the other duties, such as inspecting and reclassifying parts. If they are only stocking your parts and handing them out to the other mechanics they would not be testable. Your PMI would be best to help you determine if your maintenance personnel are classified right.

Anyone who checks life vests and recertifies them would need to be tested as well as anyone filling oxygen bottles.

If you are unsure, ask.

What is 91.147 (Sightseeing)

These are flights run normally as Part 91 that you are taking off and landing at the same airport. You are taking a fee for the trip. These are not aerial photography, nor are they flight training.

This type of flight would be most often seen at flight shows with older aircraft or maybe a touring group with special planes. These types of flights are covered under a Letter of Authorization or LOA. An LOA is given by your local FSDO and is registered to the plane. You must have a valid FAA drug and alcohol program in place before you will be given a Letter of Authorization. Allow enough time to obtain your drug and alcohol testing program as well as your LOA before you intend to start a new sightseeing business or perform at an air show. Although starting a program with our consortium is fairly quick, each FSDO has its own timeframe for setting up new programs. You would not want to miss out on a business opportunity by running out of time.

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