Drug and alcohol testing

Alcohol and drug testing ensures that people under the influence of alcohol and drugs performing safety sensitive aviation activities (SSAA) are quickly identified and tested.

There are 2 types of alcohol and drug testing that can be done under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR):

  • non-notice testing, also known as CASA testing (CASR Subpart 99C)
  • employer testing, as part of their organisation's DAMP (CASR Subpart 99B).

Who can be tested

Anyone who performs (or are available to perform) a safety sensitive aviation activity (SSAA) can be tested without notice or as part of employer testing.

SSAA roles are those that might affect the safe working of an aircraft and include (but are not limited to):

  • flight crew
  • cabin crew
  • ground handlers
  • maintenance teams
  • aircraft dispatchers
  • aviation security staff
  • refuellers
  • anyone who works airside.

People who conduct SSAAs are known as SSAA employees.

CASA testing

We can conduct drug and alcohol testing on anyone in an aerodrome testing area without notice, except for passengers. We choose people at random for testing.

We can test SSAA employees for:

  • alcohol
  • opiates
  • cannabinoids
  • cocaine
  • amphetamines.

Why we test

In 2004, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) recommended mandatory alcohol and drug testing for the aviation community following a multiple-fatality aircraft accident.

In response, the Australian Government directed us to develop an alcohol and other drugs management program for the aviation industry.

Watch how we conduct an alcohol and drugs test.

Alcohol tests

Alcohol tests can only be done by breath testing. The testing device must meets Australian Standard AS3547.

If your first alcohol breath test is positive, our tester will do another test to confirm the result.

If the second test is positive (0.02 grams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath or higher), you must stop doing SSAAs.

If the second test is positive, we will:

  • issue you with a notice
  • ensure you stop doing SSAAs.

If the second test is negative, we treat the whole test as negative.

Drug tests

Drug tests can be done using samples of oral fluid.

Our approved tester will ask you to give a sample. You must stop doing any SSAAs and stay with the tester during the test.

If your first drug test is positive, our tester will do another test to confirm the result. If the second test is positive, we’ll take another sample and send it to an approved laboratory to confirm the result.

You must stop doing, or being available to do SSAAs until we get the result.

If you test positive to an alcohol or drug test

A CASA medical review officer (MRO) must review a positive alcohol or drug test result before we decide to take action.

If you have a positive test result you can’t do, or be available to do, SSAAs until:

  • you have a full assessment
  • you start taking part in an alcohol or drug intervention program (if we recommend it)
  • you're considered fit to resume duties by your organisation's MRO, our MRO or your treating clinician.

If you refuse a test

We can’t force you to have a test. But if you refuse, or won't give a sample we may prosecute you.

You must stop doing a SSAA. If you don’t, you can face a criminal charge.

Your responsibilities

If you're an SSAA employee, you must:

  • not do SSAAs if you know you're affected by drugs or alcohol
  • tell your supervisor if you’ve consumed alcohol or are taking a drug that could affect your ability to carry out your duties
  • know who your drug and alcohol management plan (DAMP) supervisor is
  • know your DAMP supervisor's drug and alcohol management responsibilities
  • tell your supervisor if you’re taking any medications that could affect your ability to carry out your duties or contain a drug that is tested for. If you're not sure, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or designated aviation medical examiner
  • ask for help or use support services if your drug or alcohol use has become a problem.

Employer testing

Organisations with DAMPs can test their employees:

  • when an employee first joins an organisation as a regular SSAA employee (unless they have tested negative in the past 90 days)
  • when an existing employee is going to start a new SSAA role
  • when a DAMP supervisor thinks an SSAA employee could be affected by drugs or alcohol
  • when an SSAA employee is returning to work after being suspended for testing positive to a testable drug
  • after an accident or serious incident.

Samples can be collected by a testing provider who is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities, or a trained and capable person under the exemption for collecting and screening specimens.

Read more about implementing a drug and alcohol testing program.

Medical review officers

A DAMP organisation must consult a MRO:

  • When a positive result is confirmed by a second drug test. This is because the result could be caused by medical treatment or something harmless. For example, an over-the-counter cold and flu tablet can cause a positive result for amphetamines.
  • If an SSAA employee has failed to give a body sample for alcohol and drug testing due to a medical condition. A MRO must review the relevant medical information to confirm a valid medical reason. For example, a lung condition can stop a person from doing a breath test.
  • If an employee returns to work after a suspension, they must be fit for SSAAs. A MRO needs to check that they are safe to start doing these activities again.

Find a DAMP medical review officer

The Australasian Medical Review Officers Association keeps a list of accredited medical review officers.

A DAMP organisation can choose a registered medical practitioner of their choice, as long as that practitioner has:

  • competence in the field of interpreting drug and alcohol test results
  • knowledge of substance use disorders
  • knowledge of the aviation regulations relating to drug and alcohol management.
Back to top of page