What is a Safety-Sensitive Position?

Safety-Sensitive Positions

Drug testing is a helpful risk-reduction tool, and businesses that want to avoid risky behavior
will drug test their employees. Employers with positions covered by the Department of
Transportation (DOT) must administer tests under the guidelines established by that agency, as
required by law. Before hiring anyone, employers must determine which positions can be
categorized as safety-sensitive to comply with The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of
A safety-sensitive job is a particular type of employment in which an employee’s
performance can affect the safety of themselves, other employees, or the general public. This term
is typically used in industries such as transportation, aviation, construction, healthcare, and
manufacturing, where the consequences of a mistake can be severe. For example, a pilot who
operates a plane while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can put the lives of passengers and
crew members at risk while in the air. Similarly, a construction worker who fails to follow proper
safety procedures can cause accidents that may result in serious injuries or fatalities to those on the
construction site and to bystanders passing by. Employers in safety-sensitive industries often have
specific policies and procedures to ensure their employees are fit for duty and capable of performing
their jobs safely. This may include drug and alcohol testing, safety training, and other measures to
prevent accidents and promote workplace safety.

The most significant federal law affecting sectors of the economy that are concerned with
safety is the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. All safety-sensitive employees
in the aircraft, trucking, railroads, public transit, pipeline, and other transportation industries must
submit to drug and alcohol testing. The statute applies to every employer whose company is
regulated by one of the following federal authorities or organizations:

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
U.S. Coast Guard

Although each of the above agencies has developed specific guidelines and procedures for
complying with the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, they all follow the exact core

● Employers are required to test safety-sensitive employees at specific points.
● Employers are required to have a program of random drug testing in place.
● All drug testing must be done by a certified laboratory listed by the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS).
● All drug testing must test for five different classes of drugs: marijuana metabolites, cocaine
metabolites, amphetamines, opioid metabolites, and phencyclidine (PCP).
● All alcohol testing employees must strictly adhere to DOT’s policies and procedures for
alcohol testing.

● A qualified medical review officer must review all tests.
● All employees, whether in safety-sensitive positions or not, must receive drug and alcohol
awareness training and education.
● All supervisors must receive at least two hours of substance use detection, documentation,
and intervention training.
● The employer must refer any employee with a substance use problem to a trained substance
abuse professional.

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