Measures to reduce the risks of alcohol and drug impairment in Aviation, Maritime and Rail

Questions and Answers:

What are the changes to the way that the risks of alcohol and drug impairment are managed in aviation and maritime?

The Government has decided three changes:

  • All commercial aviation and maritime operators will be required to have a drug and alcohol management plan. The plan must include mandatory random alcohol and drug testing of all safety sensitive staff members. The plans must be approved by either Maritime New Zealand or the Civil Aviation Authority.
  • Maritime New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority will have the power to undertake non-notified alcohol and drug testing as part of their oversight and monitoring roles. These agencies will be able to test any safety sensitive staff of commercial aviation and maritime operators against the standards set in the operator’s drug and alcohol management plan.
  • The Ministry of Transport will explore the viability of enabling the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) to require alcohol and drug testing from survivors of an aviation, maritime or rail accident in the commercial and recreational sectors.

What is random testing?

Random testing is the unscheduled, unannounced testing of randomly selected employees by a process designed to ensure that selections are made in a non-discriminatory manner.

What is non-notified testing?

Non-notified testing is unannounced testing. It can be with or without good cause to suspect impairment.

What is a ‘safety sensitive activity’?

Safety sensitive activity means any activity carried out by any person in the course of their work in relation to a transport function that could significantly affect the health or safety of persons on a transport mode.

What happens next?

The Civil Aviation Act 1990 and the Maritime Transport Act 1994 will be amended and should be in place by 2017.

The legislation will include explicit requirements for all commercial aviation and maritime operators to develop drug and alcohol management plans that include random alcohol and drug testing. The associated rules will set out what needs to be included in the plans.

Will there be any further chance for consultation on the changes?

There will be consulatation on the changes through the legislative and rules process.

What will the requirement to have a drug and alcohol management plan mean for commercial aviation and maritime operators?

All commercial aviation and maritime operators will be required to have a drug and alcohol plan in place that includes random testing of safety sensitive staff members, and has been approved by either the Civil Aviation Authority or Maritime New Zealand.

Will the requirement to have a drug and alcohol plan result in extra cost for commercial aviation and maritime operators?

Many commercial aviation and maritime operators have already developed an appropriate drug and alcohol management plan, which means additional costs will be negligible or non-existent for them. However, there will be costs for commercial aviation and maritime operators who do not currently meet the required standard.

How will testing under drug and alcohol management plans work?

An operator’s employment agreement must include details on the testing process. This includes what happens if an employee fails a test. The employer (or an agent on their behalf) will conduct the testing. This means that the testing process, including what happens in the event of a failed test, are part of employment relations processes.

The drug and alcohol management plans will:

  • include mandatory random alcohol and drug testing of all safety sensitive staff members
  • be approved by either the Civil Aviation Authority or Maritime NZ
  • reflect the risk of the activity being undertaken
  • not contravene the employee’s rights.

What happens if there is a positive result to a test?

Each operator’s drug and alcohol management plan will outline the employment relations processes that will happen if there is a positive test result.

While the focus of the changes is on improving the safety culture through greater employer responsibility, some circumstances will be significant enough to justify the Civil Aviation Authority or Maritime NZ taking action against an individual or company. Depending on the circumstances, this could range from administrative sanctions, such as the removal of a maritime or aviation document, through to prosecution.

What are the potential sanctions if someone is subject to regulatory action or prosecution?

There are a number of sanctions that the Civil Aviation Authority, Maritime NZ or the NZ Police could use.

View a PDF summary of the potential sanctions [PDF, 77 KB].

How will drug and alcohol management plans be approved?

The Civil Aviation Authority or Maritime NZ will approve all drug and alcohol management plans. The Civil Aviation Authority and Maritime NZ will ensure that similar operations have consistent drug and alcohol management plans, including the frequency and level of testing, and consequences for a failed test.

How will operators know what is expected in a drug and alcohol management plan?

The Civil Aviation Authority and Maritime NZ will clearly outline to all commercial aviation and maritime operators their expectation of what is to be included in a drug and alcohol management plan.

What will the testing standards and limits be?

The testing standards and limits will depend on what the operator has stipulated in their drug and alcohol management plan. The contents of drug and alcohol management plans will depend on the size and risk profile of the operator.

The Civil Aviation Authority and Maritime NZ will ensure that similar operations have consistent drug and alcohol management plans, including the frequency and level of testing, and consequences for a failed test.

Why will drug and alcohol management plans be different?

Allowing flexibility in drug and alcohol management plans recognises that different operators will have different risk profiles. A flexible approach addresses the risks for each operation, while balancing the costs for smaller, less risky operations. Making each operator examine and manage their risk creates wider safety benefits, with greater buy-in from both management and staff.

What changes have already been put in place to manage alcohol and drug impairment in the aviation and maritime sectors since 2012?

The alcohol and drug impairment management regime in aviation and maritime has been significantly strengthened since 2012 (primarily through strengthened requirements for adventure tourism operators).

In 2012, Civil Aviation Rule 115 (Adventure Aviation – Certification and Operations) was introduced. This rule requires all adventure aviation operators to have drug and alcohol management plans. In 2015, the Civil Aviation Authority issued Advisory Circular AC115-1, which mandated random testing in an operator’s drug and alcohol management plan.

In 2014 Maritime New Zealand introduced the Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS), which requires operators to have a drug and alcohol policy. Each operator determines what type of screening is needed.