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NTSB to Coast Guard: Raise post-accident alcohol, drug testing standards

National Transportation Safety BoardThe National Transportation Safety Board (ntsb) is recommending that the U.S. Coast Guard increase its post-accident drug and alcohol testing standards to the level of those required of merchant mariners.

Currently, Coast Guard regulations require that merchant mariners be drug and alcohol tested within specified time periods following a marine accident or serious incident while Coast Guard military and civilian personnel involved in similar events are subject to lower, less stringent standards.

For example, although merchant mariners are required to provide a breath sample for alcohol testing within two hours of an accident, no timeframe for the test is provided for Coast Guard military personnel; Coast Guard civilian personnel are not required to submit to an alcohol test at all. And although the allowable blood alcohol level (BAC) for merchant mariners must be less than .04%, the Coast Guard has not specified an allowable BAC for its own personnel.

The Coast Guard also does not specify a timeframe for post-accident drug testing for its military personnel, while requiring all merchant mariners to be drug tested within 32 hours of an accident.

The NTSB cited five accident investigations between 2007 and 2011 in which the Coast Guard failed to adequately drug or alcohol test its military and civilian personnel who were in safety sensitive positions. While there was no indication that drug or alcohol played a role in those accidents, the Board considers such post-accident testing important because individuals under the influence of alcohol or drugs can contribute to the cause of an accident.

The safety recommendation letter is available at http://go.usa.gov/g2eT.

Links to the NTSB reports for the five accidents cited in the letter:

November 7, 2007
Allision of Hong Kong-Registered Containership M/V Cosco Busan With the Delta Tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
http://go.usa.gov/g2em

July 2, 2008
Collision Between U.S. Passenger Ferry M/V Block Island and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay
http://go.usa.gov/g2tY

December 5, 2009
Collision between USGC boat CG 25689 and passenger vessel Thriller 09
http://go.usa.gov/g2tQ

December 20, 2009
Collision Between U.S. Coast Guard Vessel CG 33118 and Sea Ray Recreational Vessel CF 2607 PZ
http://go.usa.gov/g2tw

October 29, 2011
Collision of Tankship Elka Apollon With Containership MSC Nederland, Houston Ship Channel
http://go.usa.gov/g2te

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