Do you have a plan or policies in place to manage drug, alcohol and substance abuse?

Every aviation organisation should think about how they would deal with a situation where employees are impaired as a result of drug or alcohol consumption.

If someone at work is under the influence, it could have a negative impact on safety, especially in an aviation setting. Even if consumed outside the workplace, it can lead to poor concentration, risk-taking behaviour and errors in judgement. It can also result in higher rates of injuries, fatalities and absenteeism as well as reduced productivity.

Testing

Reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that employees are not under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

While testing for drug, alcohol or other illegal substances is not currently mandatory (the exception is adventure aviation operators), it is good practice.  

A non-negative result means the initial test has indicated that there may be drugs or alcohol present.

In the event of a non-negative result:

  1. The situation must be considered that impairment exists;
  2. The person tested should immediately cease work in safety critical roles until they are considered no longer impaired;
  3. An additional laboratory test, on the same sample, is then performed to establish the result as positive or not.

Fact sheet - Testing for drugs and alcohol in the workplace [PDF 388 KB] 

Managing the problem

Effective management should also deal with the issue on a long term basis, when necessary, to ensure that repeat behaviour is identified and managed. A workplace policy which applies to all staff can provide the structure for good management.

These fact sheets can give guidance for a successful drug and alcohol programme.

Fact sheet – Drug and alcohol policy development [PDF 355 KB]

Sample policy - Drug, alcohol and substance impairment [PDF 383 KB]

The sample policy does not cover all of the elements considered necessary to provide a full and comprehensive policy. It should be read in conjunction with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and associated regulations where relevant.

Management plans and testing could become mandatory

Commercial operators may soon be required to have drug and alcohol management plans.

In 2016, the Government announced plans to strengthen the management of drug and alcohol impairment in the commercial aviation and maritime sectors.

This initiative is known as Clear Heads.

The changes would make it mandatory for all commercial aviation operators to have drug and alcohol management plans, including random testing of staff performing safety sensitive activities. The changes will also give the Director of Civil Aviation the power to conduct random testing of staff performing safety sensitive activities.

The Ministry of Transport has more information about Clear Heads.(external link)

Drugs and alcohol in adventure aviation

Part 115 Adventure Aviation Operators must manage drug, alcohol and substance impairment as a significant risk. You must develop and implement a drug and alcohol programme, which includes a testing regime. That includes detection of prescribed medications, which can cause impairment. Your procedures should give assurance that, while working in key safety roles, neither you, your employees nor contractors are substance-impaired. You must be able to back this up with evidence from test results.

The following fact sheets give guidance for a successful drug and alcohol programme in an adventure aviation setting:

Fact sheet - Part 115 and the Health and Safety at Work Act: Drug and Alcohol Programme [PDF 348 KB]

Fact sheet - Part 115 Testing for Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace [PDF 392 KB]