Coast Guard Weighing Drug/Alcohol Testing Changes

It seeks comments by March 20 on possibly requiring crewmembers who are selected for testing to report immediately to the testing site upon being notified and also requiring marine employers to report failed drug tests by non-credentialed mariners.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it is considering revising its regulations governing drug and alcohol testing of mariners and wants to receive comments from mariners, marine employers, and substance abuse professionals on several issues, including possibly requiring crewmembers who are selected for testing to report immediately to the testing site upon being notified. Unlike the Federal Aviation Administration or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Coast Guard does not currently require reporting immediately -– its rules don't specify how soon mariners must report.

In its Federal Register notice, the Coast Guard said it believes requiring immediate reporting may improve the reliability and effectiveness of employers' drug testing programs. The affected rules are 46 CFR part 16 (drug testing) and 33 CFR part 95 (alcohol testing).

Among other things, the notice asks for comments about non-Coast Guard sources of data on deaths, injuries, and property damage resulting from drug or alcohol use by mariners on commercial vessels; how frequently supervisors are trained about the signs and effects of drug and alcohol use; whether employers conduct on-site specimen collections; and what additional compliance costs would result from immediate reporting for testing.

The notice also says the Coast Guard is considering allowing companies to lower the required random drug testing rate of 50 percent of covered crewmembers annually to 25 percent if they can demonstrate their positive test rate was 1 percent or less for two consecutive years.

To submit a comment or related material, visit http://www.regulations.gov and search for docket number USCG-2010-1064. Robert Schoening in the Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis is the contact for more information, at 202-372-1033 or Robert.C.Schoening@uscg.mil.

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