In the ongoing effort to prevent railroad accidents, injuries and deaths, regulators at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have recently issued a new final rule to enhance the alcohol and drug testing protocols for some railroad workers.
Officially known as the Control of Alcohol and Drug Use rule, this requirement will expand drug and alcohol testing requirements for maintenance of way (MOW) railroad employees.
The goal of this new rule, according to officials, is to “better protect railroad employees working on or near railroad tracks” while minimizing the possibility of preventable railroad accidents related to worker impairment.
Details of the New FRA Drug & Alcohol Testing Rule
Fulfilling a mandate set by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the new drug and alcohol testing policy for MOW railroad workers will fully subject this group of employees to the full battery of drug and alcohol testing protocols that are in place for other railroad employees.
Specifically, this requirement, which will take effect in April 2017, will provide for drug and alcohol testing:
- During the hiring process
- After a railroad accident
- Whenever there may be “reasonable suspicion” of impairment
- As part of the return-to-duty procedures
- As follow-up to failed tests.
Prior to this new rule, MOW employees were only subject to drug and alcohol testing after a crash or a deadly work accident.
Commenting on this new FRA rule, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has explained that:
Clear communication, multiple layers of safety and a rigorous alcohol and drug testing policy are critical to keep workers along and near tracks—and ultimately passengers and train crews—out of harm’s way.. These are common sense rules that will help make our railroads safer.
FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg also expressed support of the new FRA rule, noting that:
These new rules add another layer of protection for workers who work along and near railroad tracks and will help us reduce preventable worker injuries and fatalities… Whether you are an engineer, conductor or someone working alongside the tracks, safety requires alertness. Any reduction in awareness caused by drugs or alcohol use can often be the difference between life and death.
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