USCG Drug & Alcohol Testing
Employers regulated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) are required under Homeland Security regulations to maintain a drug and alcohol testing program. Formerly under DOT, the Coast Guard employers follow DOT 49 CFR Part 40, they still do follow these DOT regulations under a memorandum of agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation.
Those applying for a Captains license or other merchant mariner credential need initial drug test and periodic drug testing every two years. Only a DOT 5 Panel (SAMHSA 5 Panel, formerly NIDA 5), testing for Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates, Phencyclidine (PCP) and Amphetamines will be accepted. The laboratory the specimen will be sent to must be accredited by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the final drug test results must be signed by a Certified Medical Review Officer (MRO).
The purpose of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Program regulations are to provide a means to deter the illegal use of controlled substances by merchant marine personnel and to promote a drug-free and safe work environment for the safe passage of embarked passengers and for carriage of cargo on U.S. waterways. Enforcement of these regulations by the U.S. Coast Guard is necessary to ensure that marine employers have taken the necessary steps to have a safe and drug free working environment by conducting testing when required and in the manner described in the regulations. The marine employer must develop a program that serves as a strong deterrent to the illegal use of controlled substances by covered crewmembers, and that promotes a safe, drug-free workplace.
Regulations for Marine Employers
The regulations involved for marine employers are as follows:
- 46 CFR 16 - Coast Guard: Chemical Testing. This regulation includes the chemical testing requirements for marine employers. Some areas that are included are: test category procedures, (when and who to test), and management of the test program.
- 46 CFR 4.06 - Coast Guard: Mandatory Chemical Testing Following Serious Marine Incidents Involving Vessels in Commercial Service. This regulation will assist the marine employer in understanding the requirements for drug and alcohol testing following a Serious Marine Incident and the steps to take to achieve compliance.
- 49 CFR 40 - Department of Transportation (DOT) - Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs: The procedures for all DOT-regulated drug testing, includes technical regulations for collection and testing (how to test).
- Failure, on the part of a marine employer, to implement or conduct chemical testing for dangerous drugs or for evidence of alcohol may result in a civil penalty of up to $5,500.00 per day for each violation. Each day of a continuing violation constitutes a separate violation. (46 United States Code, Section 2115).
All marine employers when planning to start or do a drug test program are, by necessity, required to do business with a service agent. A service agent is a business entity that will provide one or more drug testing service packages to aid employers with compliance. Two primary service agents are the SAMHSA accredited labs where the specimen are analyzed and the Medical Review Officers (MRO), who have to receive the drug test results from the lab, review the test results, conduct interviews as necessary and report the drug test results to an authorized receiving individual. A collection site, considered to be a service agent, is where the specimens are collected. If an individual tests positive or has a drug test violation, they are required to see a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) who is also a service agent. Another service agent who can provide many or most of the above service is a Consortia/Third Party Administrator (C/TPA).
Always select a company with experience to provide a professional drug and alcohol testing program, hiring the local urgent clinic is not a good idea. US Drug Test Centers has experience and can provide a full service program that keeps you in compliance with the regulations. A common misconception is that the Coast Guard approves service agents that provide services to the regulated marine employers. The Coast Guard does not approve service agents.
There are many aspects of your program for you to consider so that you are in compliance, these include:
- Specimen Collection Facility
- SAMHSA Accredited Laboratories
- Medical Review Officers (MRO)
- EAP Education Program
- Substance Abuse Professional (SAP)
- Management Information System (MIS)
A Consortium/Third Party Administrator (C/TPA) like US Drug Testing Services can help you put this all together. US Drug Test Centers will assist you if you have an audit with your drug and alcohol testing program. A nationwide C/TPA, US Drug Test Centers provides services in all areas of the United States.
Staying compliant with the regulations required great record keeping. To avoid noncompliance and fines the marine employer must have good records and a written drug and alcohol program. The marine employer’s written drug and alcohol program must address the specific processes, methods, and resources the marine employer intends to use to comply with the provisions set forth in the regulations. The written program tells how the company will comply with the regulations.
A marine employer’s proof that they are complying with the regulations is in the form of paper records. In other words, a company has done all of the required testing, is now being audited by the Coast Guard and needs to provide records showing compliance.
Violations of the regulations is serious business. The following enforcement actions may be taken for noncompliance with the Coast Guard chemical testing regulations:
- Certificate of Inspection (COI) may be removed or not issued.
- Civil Penalty for first time violators may be assessed of up to $5,500.00 per violation, per day.
- Suspension and Revocation (S & R) proceedings may be initiated against an individual’s license, MMD, or COR.
- Captain of the Port (COTP) order may be issued (prohibiting the operation of the vessels involved until compliance is gained).
- Letter of Warning.
- CG-835 (deficiency ticket) may be issued.
Noncompliance can lead to serious consequences for your business. Take the proper steps now for compliance with the USCG required drug and alcohol testing program.
Contact US Drug Testing Centers for expert assistance to comply.