FAA Drug Testing - Everything You Need To Know

FAA Drug Testing - Everything You Need To Know

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the regulation of commercial and general aviation in the United States. It provides flight services to aircraft and ground and air passenger transportation.

The FAA is charged with ensuring the safety of all people who fly and passengers and cargo on board the aircraft. It has stringent drug testing requirements for all flight-related operators, including pilots, people performing maintenance at an airport for a scheduled airline, or anyone else involved in aviation having direct contact with passengers or cargo at any point during the operation.

Table Of Contents:

The Mission And Role Of The FAA In Drug Testing

The mission of the FAA is to foster aviation while maintaining the highest levels of safety possible. FAA has strict procedures and policies that prevent safety risks, such as drugs that might impair an individual's ability to perform certain job duties in aviation or affect their cognitive or motor skills. 

Extensive studies indicate that drug use is more prevalent in the aviation community than in general. With this knowledge, FAA drug testing procedures were established to ensure a safe environment for all. On top of the FAA regulations, most airlines have their drug policies and testing procedures. 

The airlines comply with the federal regulations regarding drug testing and have their own rules and guidelines that require drug testing. However, according to the FAA, drug testing is necessary for several reasons such as:

  • Drug use by aviation employees increases the risk of flight-related accidents.
  • A person under the influence of drugs is more likely to injure others or themselves accidentally.
  • Drug abuse lowers an individual's ability to pay attention, concentrate, and make critical decisions necessary for aviation safety.
  • Drug abuse might lead to other criminal behaviors that have serious consequences for people and equipment involved in aviation operations.

In addition to its drug testing procedures, the FAA has oversight of aviation operations to ensure the safety of those involved. It includes pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, and ground service agents. The test is meant to ensure that they are fit and ready to perform their jobs safely.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Drug And Alcohol Testing Regulations

Any person who provides aviation-related services, such as pilots and maintenance technicians, is subject to drug testing as a condition of their employment with the FAA. It doesn't matter whether they are employed by a private company or an air carrier; the agency holds them to a standard of conduct that includes drug use.

The FAA has strict guidelines and regulations regarding drug testing that it enforces with flying regulations and aircraft maintenance standards. Here are some examples:

  1. The FAA prohibits the use of alcohol or any illegal drugs by pilots within eight hours of flight time.
  2. The agency also dictates a requirement for pilots to be free of any drugs when flying in areas designated as high risk for certain types of accidents, such as mountainous regions.
  3. The FAA keeps an eye out for potential drug use among flight attendants and makes them take a drug test if there is any suspicion that they might need to undergo testing.
  4. The agency doesn't tolerate the use of illegal drugs by maintenance technicians.
  5. The FAA requires that all personalities involved in safety-sensitive departments, such as Air traffic control, Aircraft dispatchers, Aircraft maintenance and preventive maintenance, Aviation screening, Flight attendants, Flight crewmembers, Flight instruction, and Ground security, take a drug test before receiving their federal employment clearance.
  6. There is no limit to the amount of drug testing a person can undergo during their career with the FAA. Even if they have been off-duty for years and return to work after receiving a clearance from the agency, they are still required to submit to an extensive list of tests that include a urinalysis test. 
  7. If a person doesn't pass a drug test, they cannot perform the duties or responsibilities of their job. They also lose their authorization to work within the federal aviation industry. 

Therefore, the FAA regulations regarding drug testing cover all employees who provide aviation-related services. It ensures that the FAA doesn't hire drug users and that current employees remain clean and ready for work.

Does FAA Do A Pre-Employment Drug Screening?

Yes. All applicants for positions with the FAA must undergo a drug test. It is true whether the position is safety- or security-sensitive or not, and whether it involves direct contact with passengers, maintenance of aircraft, or administration of a facility. 

The job functions associated with these positions may not be drug-related. Still, the agency does not allow the possibility that a candidate might be under the influence of illegal drugs during their employment. 

Pre-employment drug testing is usually done through urinalysis by an FAA-approved laboratory. However, the FAA can elect to use an alternative test method and specimen, if necessary. If positive, the results of the pre-employment drug testing are reviewed by the MRO (Medical Review Officer) to determine if a confirmatory test is required. 

Under the pre-employment testing, if the applicant fails the test, the certification process will be terminated. Moreover, a pre-appointment drug test may be required if there is a question of the ability of the applicant to perform the duties and responsibilities of a particular position. 

If an applicant's current drug test results are negative, there is a reasonable concern based on other evidence that an applicant may pose a safety or security risk. The FAA can require a follow-up drug test at any time during (and up to) employment. 

It could be done in conjunction with an evaluation by an MRO. The follow-up test is generally a urine drug test. However, if the MRO determines that the most likely drug is not detectable in urine, a hair drug test or other tests may be used.

Does The FAA Randomly Drug Test Its Employees?

Yes. The Airline employers who follow the regulations of the FAA randomly and periodically drug test their employees. Random testing helps ensure that MMJ, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and other drugs are not being used by personnel who have access to critical information or equipment within the FAA. 

A test could occur at any time, and a test refusal is considered a positive result. While the FAA does not have to give advance notice for random drug testing, it does notify employees of drug testing as part of their orientation process. 

It means that the FAA can randomly schedule drug tests on each employee at least once every three months. However, the pilots and air traffic controllers are subject to more frequent random drug testing. 

Those selected for random drug testing are randomly notified of their selection. It means that the FAA doesn't use a specific time frame for random testing. Moreover, it is important to note that the FAA has a zero-tolerance policy and will not accept an employment application if they have failed a drug test during the previous three months. 

In the case of pilots who failed a drug test will also be asked to submit to at least six random follow-up drug screenings (which are observed) over the course of the next 12 months to verify their sobriety is being maintained.

Does FAA Do A Reasonable-Suspicion Drug Testing?

Yes. The FAA's reasonable-suspicion drug testing is done on a case-by-case basis and when there are reasonable causes to believe that an employee is under the influence of drugs. A reasonable suspicion drug test results are used in conjunction with other evidence to determine if an employee is fit for duty. 

If the employee fails a reasonable suspicion drug test, the MRO will determine if confirmation testing is required and notify the employee accordingly. The FAA will not renew or re-certify an applicant who fails to pass these types of tests and will only issue a new employment authorization (EAD) after they submit to a confirmatory drug test.

However, the FAA will take into consideration a combination of the following factors:

  • The employee's behavior or appearance, if an employee is observed to be intoxicated
  • The time, place, and circumstances of the alleged drug abuse.
  • The type of work being done or the criticality of the work being performed by the employee.
  • Past use of illegal drugs or any other indications that drug abuse is a problem for the individual (e.g., failed drug test results in previous employment).

What Is The FAA Definition Of A Post-Accident Drug Test?

A post-accident drug test is a drug test done within a specified time of the aviation accident to find out if drugs contributed to the cause of the accident. Many laws require and regulate post-accident drug tests, such as the Drug-Free Workplace Act, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical standard, and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.

A post-accident drug test is a "reasonable" or "permissible" drug test, meaning it is legal to perform. Thus, the FAA or their contractors would not be held liable for performing a post-accident drug test on you when acceptable by these rules and regulations. 

The FAA would often order a urine drug test during a post-accident drug test because it is the most commonly used method. The FAA has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use, and negative test results trigger immediate disqualification from the program.

However, FAA drug testing rules allow a drug test up to 32 hours after the accident. If a post-accident drug test is not done, the FAA will not consider the drug test as "positive."

Conclusion

Drug testing plays a vital role in the aviation industry because it helps to ensure the safety of passengers and others. It also helps to ensure that employees can perform their jobs competently and safely.

If you are an applicant who is curious to know whether they would be subject to drug testing as part of the hiring process, you should be aware that this may be a possibility depending on your specific job with the FAA.

The time, place, and manner of testing are specified in each organization's Drug-free Workplace Plan. You need to be aware that the FAA has a zero-tolerance policy, which means if you fail a drug test, you will no longer be eligible for employment with them. It also goes for those who have committed any drug violations in the past.

FAQ

Does the FAA do hair follicle tests?

Yes, the FAA may do a hair test via a swab test. It might be used in post-accident testing to check for drugs in the pilot's hair. This hair test is only done for positive drug test results if the urine test is negative or for other reasons to think that the urine test is a false positive.

How long does it take to get FAA drug test results?

It's very difficult to give an estimated date of receipt for positive and negative results because it is dependent on so many factors. However, receiving positive and negative results is generally less than a week.

Can an FAA drug test be overturned?

If you fail the test and you think it's a false positive, then you are entitled to a confirmatory lab test to prove that it was indeed wrong. If the result comes back negative, the first test will be considered "invalid.

Can you reapply if you fail the FAA drug test?

You can reapply if you have failed a drug test and have been allowed to submit an acceptable drug test result. If you pass the next round of testing, then your prior failed test will not be considered, and your application will be considered "cleared." But in the case of safety-sensitive functions, you cannot reapply and must go through the process of a complete panel review.

Does the FAA drug test private pilots?

No, the FAA does not have a formal pilot program for testing. In other words, the FAA can randomly test a commercial pilot if it finds a reason to suspect drug use. But in the case of a private pilot certificate holder, the FAA will generally not randomly test unless they get a report of an accident.

Does the FAA do a background check?

Yes, the FAA does background checks. They check for factors such as a criminal record if you have committed any drug violations in the past, and other related factors. The background check aims to discover any character or behavior flaws that could affect your ability to perform tasks like flying aircraft or maintaining them.



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