Amtrak IG Report Faults Drug Use Detection

The Amtrak Inspector General has found fault with the carrier’s approach to identifying and addressing drug and alcohol use among its employees.

The Amtrak IG said in a recently released report that the matter has been  “a longstanding challenge for the company.”

Among the key findings of the report are that testing requirements are not consistently followed, testing data is not collected efficiently, testing databases are incomplete, supervisors are not trained to detect impairment in employees and Amtrak provides only limited oversight of prescription drug use.

The report said Amtrak’s oversight is “weak,” as evidenced by the fact that 33 of 783 locomotive engineers who worked at Amtrak between 2014 and 2016 never had an annual drug test.

Another 448 had fewer than the three required drug tests, which the IG said reflects a lack of an “effective procedure for tracking and monitoring” tests to make sure employees were meeting their requirements.

Only 45 of 196 supervisors of employees in safety-sensitive positions had completed the company’s had completed the required training on detecting drug and alcohol use.

As for employee use of prescription drugs, the IG report said Amtrak workers are supposed to report any use of prescription medicine to the company’s human resources department, which then assesses if the medication is “compatible with the duties of each employee.”

However, the IG report said its review determined that a “significantly low” level of reporting by employees had occurred.

An Amtrak HR official attributed that to self-reporting being an inherently weak control, adding that the carrier has no way of ensuring that all employees reported their prescription drug use.

The IG report recommends that Amtrak create a more reliable procedure to track drug testing, move to digital record-keeping of testing information, ensure its database includes all employees, establish a system to ensure supervisors are properly trains, and introduce new procedures to encourage employees to report their prescription drug use.

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