Advisory Reminds Pipeline Operators About Post-Incident Testing

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the new bulletin in response to NTSB's report on the San Bruno, Calif., explosion.

A new advisory bulletin from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reminds operators of pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities to conduct post-accident drug and alcohol tests of covered employees. Advisory Bulletin ADB-2012-02 explains who qualifies as "covered employees" and also notes that the term "accident" includes both "incidents" reportable under 49 CFR Part 191 regulations and "accidents" reportable under Part 195.

"Covered employees include both operator employees and contractor employees performing operations, maintenance, or emergency response functions," according to the agency's Federal Register notice. "Operators and contractors are encouraged to review and update, where necessary, plans and procedures governing post-accident substance abuse/misuse testing and train all those involved with ensuring that such testing is performed promptly and in an effective manner."

"Operators are reminded that covered functions encompass a broad range of employee and contractor positions, including, but not limited to, contract emergency responders, pressure control technicians, temp-agency covered employees, and control room operators," it says. "If a covered employee's performance cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to the accident or incident, the employee must be tested for the potential substance abuse or misuse of both drugs and alcohol. In order to meet the testing timelines, do not delay testing in order to determine the circumstances surrounding the accident or incident. However, the accident or incident circumstances and events must be assessed promptly and documented, especially the reasons for not drug or alcohol testing an accident-related covered employee."

Section 199.105 says post-accident drug tests of covered employees whose performance cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to the accident must be completed no later than 32 hours after the accident. If an operator doesn't complete post-accident alcohol testing of covered employees whose performance cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to the accident within two hours of the accident, the operator must prepare and maintain on file a record stating why not. If post-accident alcohol testing is not administered within eight hours following the accident, the operator must cease attempts to administer an alcohol test and must state in the record the reasons for not administering the test. Covered employees must remain available for post-accident testing, but emergency response or medical care of the employee are never to be delayed for alcohol testing, according to the notice.

Section 199.103(a) says an operator may not knowingly employ anyone who (1) fails a drug test required by this regulation and the Medical Review Officer makes a determination under DOT Procedures Part 40; or (2) refuses to take a drug test as required.

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