>Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program


The initial USCG drug testing rules were finalized in November 1988, and required alcohol and drug testing of specified crewmembers. The rules were to be implemented by employers beginning on July 21, 1989 for pre-employment testing, December 21, 1989 for reasonable suspicion and serious marine incident (post accident) testing, and October 1, 1991 for random testing requirements. The DOT published rules mandating anti-drug and alcohol misuse prevention programs in February 1994. The rules expanded and supplement existing drug testing rules published that mandated drug testing of commercial marine, aviation, interstate motor carrier, railroad, and pipeline employees.

USCG and the U.S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) issued rules specifying procedures for urine drug testing. Alcohol regulations are covered under 46 CFR part 4, and 33 CFR part 95.

The USCG rules cover crewmembers involved in the safe operation of the vessel. The vessel must be U.S. registered and, 200 tons or greater, or required to be operated by USCG licensed personnel, or vessels carrying passengers for hire. Operation is generally defined as any work a crewmember does involving:
  • Control, navigation or management of a vessel
  • Operation of propulsion, pump, electrical and related mechanical systems
  • Lifesaving, firefighting, and communication equipment
  • Mooring, anchoring and towing
  • Cargo and fuel handling, vessel stability or watertight integrity
These duties are generally referred to as “safety sensitive” duties. Crewmembers, whether or not they are documented (licensed), who perform safety sensitive duties on covered vessels are subject to these rules.
The types of test required are: pre-employment; reasonable suspicion; post-accident; random; return-to-duty; and follow-up. In addition, refusing to submit to a drug test is prohibited. Drug testing split samples are not required to be collected, but are acceptable.
The D.O.T. drug and alcohol testing procedures rule (49 CFR Part 40) sets forth the procedures for drug testing in the USCG industries. Drug testing is conducted by analyzing a crewmember’s urine specimen. The analysis is performed at laboratories certified and monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The list of DHHS approved laboratories is published monthly in the Federal Register.

All urine specimens are analyzed for the following drugs:

  1. Marijuana (THC metabolite)
  2. Cocaine
  3. Amphetamines
  4. Opiates (including heroin)
  5. Phencyclidine (PCP)
All drug test results are reviewed and interpreted by a physician (medical review officer – MRO) before they are reported to the employer. If the laboratory reports a positive result to the MRO, the MRO contacts the crewmember (in person or by telephone) and conducts an interview to determine if there is an alternative medical explanation for the drugs found in the crewmember’s urine specimen. For all the drugs except PCP and Methamphetamine, there are some limited, legitimate medical uses that may explain the positive test result. If the crewmember provides appropriate documentation and the MRO determines that it is legitimate medical use of the prohibited drug, the drug test result is reported as negative to the employer. Illegal use is reported as a positive test.
A crewmember must be removed from safety-sensitive duty if he/she has a positive drug test result, and the local USCG Marine Inspection Unit will be notified. A crewmember cannot be returned to safety-sensitive duties until he/she have a determination from the MRO that they are drug-free, and the risk of subsequent drug use is sufficiently low enough to justify a return to duty. Follow-up testing to monitor the crewmember’s continued abstinence may be required. In addition, the USCG may take action against the crewmember’s license.
Employers are responsible for conducting random, unannounced drug tests. The total number conducted each year must equal at least 50% of the safety-sensitive crewmembers. Some crewmembers may be tested more than once each year; some may not be tested at all depending on the random selection. Random testing for drugs does not have to be conducted in immediate time proximity to performing safety-sensitive functions. Once notified of selection for testing, however, a crewmember must proceed to a collection site to accomplish the urine specimen collection.
Because alcohol is a legal substance, the rules define specific prohibited alcohol-related conduct. Performance of safety-sensitive functions is prohibited:
  • While having a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater as indicated by an alcohol breath test.
  • While operating any vessel and the effect of the intoxicant is apparent by observation.
  • While using alcohol.
  • Within four hours after using alcohol.
In addition, refusing to submit to an alcohol test and using alcohol within eight hours after an accident or until tested is prohibited.
The following alcohol tests are required:
  1. Post-accident – conducted after a Serious Marine Incident, on crewmembers whose performance could have contributed to the accident, and for all fatal accidents.
  2. Reasonable suspicion – conducted when a trained supervisor or company official observes behavior or appearance that is characteristic of alcohol misuse.
As of December 22, 2005 the rule changed requiring alcohol testing to be completed within 2-hours after a Serious Marine Incident (SMI), the ruling became effective June 20, 2006. The rule allow for testing to be completed through saliva, breath or blood testing. Blood testing must be done by qualified medical personnel.
Employers are responsible for implementing and conducting the testing programs. They may do this using their own employees, contract services, or by joining together in a consortium that provides services to all member companies.
Crewmembers who engage in prohibited alcohol conduct must be immediately removed from safety sensitive functions (concentration greater than 0.04), and the local USCG Marine Inspection Unit will be notified. Crewmembers who have engaged in alcohol misuse cannot return to safety sensitive duties until they have complied with any treatment made by the employer or the USCG. In addition, the USCG may take action against the crewmember’s license.