There is little room for error in the airline industry, so safety is a top priority for operators and regulators alike. It’s no surprise, then, that the airline industry is subject to numerous, complicated requirements from several different agencies. As part of the push towards safe air transportation, detecting and preventing drug and alcohol misuse is a critical component of any operator’s overall safety program. It’s also required in order to for an operator to continue business.
Earlier this year, we summarized the various mandates each agency overseeing the airline industry requires from operators in this blog post. In regards to regulations around drugs and alcohol, there are mainly two requirements; screening and training. The first is from The Department of Transportation (DOT) that requires that an applicant’s drug and alcohol history for the previous two-year period be included in any background check prior to employment.
The other requirement is from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that requires all employees of commercial operators who perform safety sensitive duties to undergo training on the effects and consequences of substance abuse as well as the cues that may indicate drug use and abuse.
These Anti Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention programs have a wide range of requirements that operators must establish in order to comply. In addition to background checks, prevention programs are also required to conduct substance abuse testing and provide employees with printed educational materials and a substance abuse hotline. Every program must also provide supervisors with ongoing training on how to identify drug and alcohol misuse in addition to adhering to documentation requirements.
Overseeing that operators comply with these regulations is the FAA’s Drug Abatement Division. Officers perform on-site inspections in addition to advising the airline industry, its employees, and its regulators.
Keeping Track of Requirements
Starting and managing an Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program can be challenging. The FAA has published this table to help identify what steps a particular operator must undertake in order to get started. These range from obtaining a Letter of Authorization from a local Flight Standards District Office to getting an Anti Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program Operations Specification. The Agency also provides free assets like videos, posters and more the support a Program Manager’s role.
While these resources are certainly helpful, corralling all the individual pieces of a holistic Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program can be daunting, complicated, and if carried out incorrectly, devastating to business. Human Resources departments are not always equipped with the knowledge and/or personnel to perform background checks, to conduct drug testing, to ensure all the right employees have received the mandated training, and to comply with the documentation requirements to provide proof of compliance. So it’s important for operators to hand over the management of their prevention program to someone with extreme organizational skills, the time to effectively manage the program, and the resources to stay current with new requirements.
Many operators find value in partnering with a TPA like NATACS that can provide a one-stop solution for starting and managing an ongoing Anti Drug and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Program. As a collaborating partner, TPAs can provide operators with quick solutions for compliance, like templates on creating a substance abuse policies, as well as guidance on how to set up a program customize to a specific operators needs and business operations.
In addition, TPAs can support program managers with general help and administrative support. If you do partner with a TPA, be sure it has the industry expertise necessary to streamline compliance and influence to affect the future of regulatory standards.