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Amtrak's random drug testing program doesn't test many employees in safety-related positions because the railroad limits the program to minimum federal requirements, Amtrak's Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported last week.
The OIG assessed the extent to which Amtrak's 11,356 employees involved in safety-related work are at risk for prescription opioid impairment or misuse, as well as the railroad's efforts to detect and deter risk. The inspector found that Amtrak's random drug testing program is limited to those in safety-work positions that are regulated under the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), such as locomotive engineers, conductors, maintenance-of-way employees and train dispatchers.
That means the program is applied to about 8,300 employees in safety-related positions that USDOT regulates. Amtrak employs about 4,000 additional people in positions that OIG considers safety-related but are not subject to federal regulations. Such positions include sheet metal mechanics, onboard services staff and yardmasters.
Expanding random drug testing to include the additional 4,000 employees would put Amtrak on par with other transportation industry practices and "would likely have safety benefits," according to the OIG.
"For example, an impaired sheet metal mechanic may make errors when repairing equipment, and impaired onboard services staff may not be able to effectively communicate critical safety information to the locomotive engineer or conductor," the report states.
The OIG also notes that the National Transportation Safety Board recommends randomly testing all employees in positions that could affect the safety of themselves or others.
To its credit, Amtrak randomly tests some management employees who supervise safety-related workers, which establishes a precedent for expanding testing beyond the USDOT-designated positions, the OIG observed.
To read the entire OIG report, click here.