Human Resources

Drug Testing

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Policy Information
  • Issue Date: November 1, 1989
  • Primary Contact: Director of Human Resources
  • Responsible Member of Directorate: President and Director
  • Responsible Office: Human Resources
Policy Information

I. Background 

    A. In 1988, federal regulations were issued through the United States Coast Guard, Department of Transportation,calling for drug and alcohol testing of marine crew members and others. The intent of the regulations is to improve safety by reducing the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse by personnel operating ships. The regulations apply to all Marine Crew members and Alvin Group Members on board Institution vessels and, in some circumstances, to all other embarked personnel on board our ships, including scientific staff. This Drug Testing Policy is intended to establish rules for implementing the regulations and to inform all embarked personnel on board WHOI ships about the requirements of the regulations. The testing mandated by the USCG regulations covers the following specific circumstances:

      1.Pre-employment Testing 
      2.Random Testing 
      3.Post-serious Marine Incident Testing 
      4.Marine Casualty Testing 
      5.Reasonable Cause Testing 
      6.Periodic Testing

    B. Definitions and details on each of the circumstances are noted below. For ease of reference, citations to Marine Crew Members should be read to include ALVIN Group Members as well. 

      1. Pre-employment Tests: All applicants for employment as Marine Crew Members at the Institution will be required to undergo drug testing as prescribed in the USCG regulation during their pre-employment physical examinations. Applicants will be expected to sign a statement indicating they understand that they will not be employed at the Institution if they test positive for drugs during this pre-employment examination. In addition, the applicants will acknowledge that, in the event that they must be sent to sea prior to the receipt of test results, their continued employment at the Institution will be based on negative test results. 

    Applicants who can provide the Institution with official documentation to support that they have successfully passed a pre-employment physical or a Periodic Test within six months of their employment application at the Institution will not be required to take another drug test. Additionally, a prospective employee who can document that he/she has been involved in a Random Drug Test procedure by a marine employer during the previous 12 months and neither failed nor refused to participate in the test will also be exempt from taking a pre-employment drug test. 

      2. Random Tests: A minimum of 50% of Marine crew members will be tested each year, with no advance notice, by random selection. The Port Office will notify the Ships' Masters by telex of those individuals who have been identified through the selection process. Specimens will be collected the day of notification. The Port Office is notified immediately if a collection is not possible. 

      3. Serious Marine Incident: Any person on board an Institution vessel who is directly involved in a serious marine incident, as defined by the federal regulation 46 CFR 4.03-2, "Serious Marine Incident", is subject to an immediate test for drugs and alcohol. A person directly involved in a serious marine incident is any person whose order, action or failure to act is determined to be, or cannot be ruled out as, a causative factor in the events leading to or causing said incident. Examples of serious marine incidents, besides physical and environmental disasters, include (i) an injury to a person that requires professional medical treatment beyond first aid and which renders the individual unable to perform routine vessel duties, and (ii) damage to property in excess of $100,000. 

    The Ship's Master, as the Institution representative, is charged with the responsibility to determine if such an incident has occurred and which individuals are directly involved. Those so determined will be required to provide a urine specimen and a breath sample. Anyone refusing may be subject to suspension or termination. In addition, the USCG may initiate license revocation procedures. The names of those individuals refusing to be tested will be placed in the Ship's log. 

    In the event that the Master may be determined to be directly involved in a Serious Marine Incident, the specimen collection and chain of custody procedure will be executed by another person so designated and trained for this purpose. 

    The procedures to follow in the event of positive test results or a refusal are outlined below. In addition, the USCG will be provided the names of all personnel tested. After the test results are received, those results will also be provided to the USCG. 

      4. Marine Casualty: Federal regulations trigger alcohol testing obligations for any individual who (i) was a Marine Crew member, pilot, or on watch and was (ii) directly involved in the occurrence of the marine casualty. For purposes of the purposes of this policy a marine casualty incident includes any incident in which (i) there is damage to the vessel and/or other property of more than $200; or (ii) a person dies or is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or (iii) a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury. 

      5. Reasonable Cause: The criteria for determining reasonable cause are contained in 46 CFR 16.250 for drugs and in 33 CFR 95.035 for alcohol. These criteria require testing when there is a reasonable and articulable belief that the individual has used a dangerous drug or is intoxicated. This belief will be based on direct observation of specific, contemporaneous physical, behavioral, or performance indicators of probable use. The primary responsibility for this determination lies with the Ship's Master, as the Institution's management representative. Where possible, the concurrence of two (2) supervisors and/or superiors who were direct observers of the reasonable cause incident will be sought. 

    Reasonable cause testing may consist of drug and/or alcohol testing, as determined by the Master's assessment of the incident. All such cases will be entered into the Ship's log, along with refusals to comply with the testings, should that occur. 

    The individuals involved in the reasonable cause incident will, if practicable, be immediately removed from any watch or duties involving the navigation or operation of the ship. Persons whose testing results are negative may be returned to their duties if such action is appropriate in the judgment of the Master. 

    Persons who test positive for alcohol but not for drugs may be returned to their duties after the period of intoxication if, in the judgment of the Master, there is no significant risk of subsequent intoxication. The USCG will be notified. 

      6.Periodic Testing: Periodic drug tests will be those performed in conjunction with the physical examinations required of marine crew members by the USCG, for example as part of the initial application and renewal process for a Merchant Mariner's Document or License. Periodic testing may also be an integral part of a rehabilitation program for any marine crew testing positive for drugs.

II. Disciplinary Action 

    A. If a Marine Crew member receives a positive drug test result or refuses to submit to requested drug testing, the Institution shall, as soon as is practicable, remove that crew member from active duty and place the crew member on involuntary unpaid marine department furlough or terminate his/her employment. However, the Institution may, in its discretion, continue in active duty any person whose performance is necessary for the preservation of life or property or the protection of the environment. The Institution may, in its discretion, treat a positive alcohol test result or a refusal to submit to alcohol testing in the same manner as a positive drug test result or a refusal to submit to a drug test. 

    B. If that same marine crew member holds a license, certificate or registry, or merchant mariner's document, the Institution must also report any positive drug test result to the USCG Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection. A crew member in this status faces license and/or document revocation under USCG procedures. Disciplinary action from the Institution is also appropriate. 

    C. If the individual affected does not hold a license, certificate of registry, or merchant mariner's document, there is no obligation to report the positive test results to the USCG (except as part of a response to a request for records by the USCG). The sole exception is in the event of a Serious Marine Incident. Employees who have positive test results are nevertheless subject toappropriate Institution disciplinary action. 

    D. Under these Federal regulations, the Institution must maintain all records of positive drug and alcohol tests for at least five years and must provide those records to the USCG on request. Negative test results must also be maintained, but only for one year. 

    E. Additional information and guidance is available from Drug-Free Workplace; Termination; Employee and Student Assistance Program; and Substance Abuse.

Should you require assistance in the interpretation  of this procedure, please contact your Human Resources Representative.

Last updated: December 29, 2016