Stopping Substance Abuse
▪ Non-supervisory miners must receive training on substance abuse in addition to existing Part 46 and Part 48 training requirements. New hires must receive at least one hour of training, and refresher training must include at least 30 minutes addressing the topic. Subjects must include the mine’s drug and alcohol policy, the dangers of drug and alcohol use and how it impacts mine safety, actions that must be taken for suspected improper use, and the availability of counseling, rehabilitation, and employee assistance.
▪ Supervisors must receive at least one hour of training as part of their annual refresher. Those supervisors that are authorized to determine “reasonable suspicion” and the need for post-accident testing must receive two hours of initial training regarding the testing requirements, how to spot signs of substance abuse, how to determine when reasonable suspicion and post-accident tests are needed, and when to refer individuals to counseling if there is insufficient evidence of a violation or reasonable suspicion.
▪ Records of drug and alcohol testing are confidential and must be secured. For at least three years, an operator must keep records of the number of workers in safety-sensitive positions, the total number of miners and supervisors tested, the number of positive tests for each prohibited substance, and who was tested and the details of each test and follow-up.
As is set forth above, the proposed rule is detailed and comprehensive. But MSHA sought comments on particulars of the proposed rule, including the list of drugs specifically prohibited, differentiating legitimate from unauthorized uses of prescription drugs, when testing is warranted, the documentation of test results as part of accident investigations, record retention, and regulatory enforcement against operators who fail to comply with the rule.
A proposed alternative
Again – the goal of the proposed rule is one that all operators should heartily embrace. And it is through cooperation that the industry and MSHA will best achieve drug- and alcohol-free operations. The proposed rule, however, unnecessarily changes existing programs that have successfully addressed drug and alcohol misuse and abuse in mining operations, increases program costs, and imposes many new recordkeeping requirements. Moreover, the enforcement of this cumbersome program would place heavy financial burdens on an already financially-strapped agency.
An alternate approach, whereby MSHA works with the industry, should be considered. MSHA could obtain the same – or better – results by adopting a different substance abuse prevention, testing, and enforcement program that builds upon and improves the industry’s experience with drug and alcohol programs. The alternative standard would be simple, and provide as follows:
1) Policy and program
Mine Operators shall develop, adopt and implement a Substance Abuse Prevention, Testing, and Enforcement Program (SAPTEP) consistent with this standard.
All miners shall be provided training in the SAPTEP as an integral part of the New Miner, Newly Employed Experienced Miner, and Annual Refresher Training mandated by applicable regulations.
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