You and Air Safety

cost of drug and alcohol testing, lion sd400 perthIn today’s fast paced, global world, air travel – both national and international – is part and parcel of daily life for very many Australians. What was once considered a luxury is now an element of family life and work life as we commute across the skies from city to city and country to country as part of employment requirements or family cohesion or vacationing.

On 22 September 2008, the Australian Government finally introduced random alcohol and drug testing of Australia’s 120,000 aviation workers. The new regulations, announced by the then Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese, also gave aviation organisations 6 months to develop detailed drug and alcohol policies that also incorporated pre-employment testing, reasonable suspicion testing, and post-accident testing. Rehabilitation, education and training were also required as part of these policies.[1]

The employees required to undergo testing were all safety sensitive personnel, and included:

  • Flight crew
  • Cabin crew (flight attendants)
  • Flight instructors
  • Aircraft dispatchers
  • Aircraft maintenance and repair personnel
  • Security personnel in aviation sector
  • Security screeners
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Baggage handlers
  • Ground refuellers
  • All other personnel with airside access.[2]

According to Dr. David Newman, a Consultant in Aviation Medicine, “drug and alcohol use in pilots can have a detrimental impact on aviation safety. Important cognitive and psychomotor functions necessary for the safe operation of an aircraft can be significantly impaired by drugs and alcohol.” [3] One can argue this view needs to be extended out to include all safety sensitive personnel operating in and around aircrafts, including those now covered by the legislated testing requirements of 2008.  Dr. Newman also remarks “while it may be so that the actual prevalence of drug and alcohol accidents in Australia is fairly low, when and where alcohol and drugs have been involved, there is a VERY high risk of accident, especially a fatal one.” [4]

In his conclusion to his aviation study, he clearly maintains that “the planned introduction of a mandatory drug and alcohol testing program into the Australian civil aviation industry will provide a more prescriptive approach to the issue of drug and alcohol use in pilots.”[5]

Five years on from Dr. Newman’s report and drug and alcohol testing, damp management and also rehabilitation and training programs are part and parcel of aviation life in Australia. The prescriptive approach has been adopted out of necessity and oral and/or saliva testing for drugs and breathalyser testing for alcohol are part of the DAMP approaches that airlines now are required to pursue.  This in turn increases safety, shores up the need for prevention of alcohol and drug use by pilots and other safety sensitive personnel, which in turn translates to increased safety for all who rely on aviation travel and use as part of their work or family or vacationing requirements.

CMM Technology supports the prescriptive approach to drug and alcohol management in the workplace. It supplies quality testing technologies to many industries including mining, transport and other heavy industries. If you or your industry requires superior testing technologies, please call CMM Technology on +618 9204 2500


[1] http://www.minister.infrastructure.gov.au/aa/releases/2008/September/AA136_2008.htm

[2] CASA  http://www.casa.gov.au/scripts/nc.dll?WCMS:STANDARD::pc=PC_100002

[3] http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/32870/b20060169_001.pdf

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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