The Federal Railroad Administration has published a final rule, effective May 6, 2013, adding certain non-controlled substances with potentially impairing side effects to its standard post-accident testing panel.
This rule will enact the addition of over-the-counter, legal drugs, (uncontrolled) such as Tramadol and a variety of sedating antihistamines, to the panel of drugs being tested for in post-accident testing only (not in random testing).
The FRA will not include the results of this testing in post-accident reports, nor release its results to the railroads or tested employees. It is being used, according to the FRA, to conduct research studies on the effects these non-controlled substance may have on accidents and incidents in the rail industry, among affected railroad workers.
The FRA believes that the use or abuse of these substances is a possible contributing factor in rail accidents and incidents, and its hoping that this rule by itself will deter the use, misuse or abuse of some non-controlled substances.
Employees may authorize a release of the tests’ results to themselves and their employer by giving permission, however, the FRA did not specify what form of communication constitutes “permission by the employee.” Therefore, it is important that UTU members be aware that releasing these test results is purely voluntary and that anyone coercing them to do so, orally, in writing or by any other means, may be subject to action by the affected employee in legal or administrative venues.
SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem noted that the UTU, along with others in rail labor, filed official comments with FRA’s Director of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Lamar Allen, opposing the rule.
Local officers are requested to post this information and inform UTU members at the union meetings and in briefings as appropriate.
Questions regarding this matter may be directed to the UTU’s national legislative office.
To review the final rule, click here.