Implementing a drug and alcohol testing program

A drug and alcohol management plan (DAMP) testing program ensures that people under the influence of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) while performing safety sensitive aviation activities (SSAAs) are quickly identified and tested.

The testing program should also have a deterrent effect on problematic AOD use by current and future employees.

Who gets tested

Anyone who performs, or are available to perform, SSAAs must be AOD tested. This includes:

  • employees
  • contractors
  • sub-contractors
  • volunteers.

Below is a list of circumstances where people can be tested.

When an employee first joins an organisation

You must test:

  • new employees joining the organisation as a regular SSAA employee
  • existing employees whose role is changing to a SSAA role.

They must be tested before they start performing SSAAs.

Exceptions: there are 2 circumstances where such testing is not required:

  • under DAMP exemption - use of pre-hiring drug and alcohol tests. You can use a previous negative pre-hiring test if conducted in the previous 90 days before hiring.
  • if the employee has been tested by another DAMP organisation in the previous 90 days and the results were not positive.

You must still confirm that the tests were conducted in accordance with the standards, and keep records.

Reasonable grounds

Testing must take place when a DAMP supervisor has 'reasonable grounds' to believe that an SSAA employee may be affected by AOD.

Reasonable grounds will vary and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some examples of possible 'reasonable grounds' include:

  • excessive or unexplained absenteeism (or both)
  • 'on-the-job' absenteeism (such as long breaks, frequent trips to the bathroom)
  • a decline in the quality of work (such as misunderstanding instructions, missed deadlines, accidents or near misses)
  • verified reports from people who have witnessed the individual's AOD use.

Returning to work after suspension due to testable drug use

Testing must take place when an SSAA employee is returning to work after suspension due to testing positive to a testable drug.

Read more about drug and alcohol responses programs.

After an 'accident' or 'serious incident'

Testing must be done after an 'accident' or 'serious incident' involving an SSAA employee, if 'suitable test conditions' exist.

'Suitable test conditions' means that testing can be done within the following timeframes and it's practicable to do the tests:

  • alcohol testing within 8 hours of the accident or incident
  • drug testing within 32 hours of the accident or incident.

What you can be tested for

Besides alcohol, you can be tested for the following specific drugs:

  • amphetamines
  • cannabis
  • cocaine
  • opiates.

The cut-off levels are set out in the relevant Australian standard.

Alcohol

Alcohol tests must only be done by taking a breath sample on a device that meets one of the following Australian standards:

  • Standard AS3547 - Breath alcohol testing devices for personal use.
  • Standard NMI R 126 - Pattern approval specifications for evidential breath analysers.

Breath alcohol testing can be conducted in-house (ie on your organisation's premises) or by an external testing provider.

The person conducting the breath alcohol test doesn't need any particular qualifications or accreditation, as long as the device meets one of the relevant standards and is used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Drugs

Drug testing under CASR Subpart 99B can be divided into 3 steps:

  1. collection of a specimen (urine or oral fluid)
  2. initial (screening) test to detect the presence of a testable drug in the specimen
  3. confirmatory test if the initial (screening) test returns a 'non-negative' or 'detected' result to confirm the presence and level of a testable drug.

The following Australian standards must be met:

  • Oral fluid - AS 4760 - Procedures for specimen collection and the detection and quantitation of drugs in oral fluid.
  • Urine - AS/NZS 4308 - Procedures for specimen collection and the detection and quantitation of drugs of abuse in urine.

What happens if an initial test returns a positive result?

The employee must stop any SSAAs.

Alcohol

A confirmatory alcohol test must be conducted in the time period specified by the device manufacturer's instructions.

The 'permitted level' of alcohol is less than 0.02 grams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath. If the confirmatory alcohol test shows that this level is reached or exceeded, it's considered a positive alcohol test and the employee must immediately stop SSAAs.

The organisation's drug and alcohol response program must then be implemented.

Drugs

The employee must stop SSAAs and a confirmatory test needs to be done by an accredited testing provider to determine the presence and level of the testable drug.

What happens if a confirmatory test returns a positive result?

The employee must not resume SSAAs. The organisation's drug and alcohol response program must then be implemented.

Back to top of page