Washington Post on Amtrak crash

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, three of the people that were involved in an Amtrak train crash near Philadelphia last year, including the engineer, a backhoe operator and work crew supervisor had been under the influence of drugs.

While the engineer survived the train crash, the other two workers were killed. Besides the two fatalities, about 40 passengers were transported to a local hospital for injuries.

The engineer tested positively for marijuana, while the other two men had used cocaine, and oxycodone, respectively.

Not only did two of the men lose their lives, but also the railroad workers endangered the lives of all on board, and injured some passengers.

Besides the Amtrak incident, in 2016 alone, about eight percent of railroad workers were involved in a work-related accident and, afterwards had tested positive for alcohol and drug use.

While the numbers are rising among railroad workers who are afflicted with a substance abuse disorder, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) officials, as well as the Office of Drug Control Policy, and the National Transportation Board are expressing their concerns to the railroads for stricter policies.

The trend of rising substance abuse among railroad workers also coincides with the increasing heroin and opioid epidemic, although in the Amtrak incident, only one of the victims had taken oxycodone, an opiate painkiller.

Previously, drug and alcohol testing was limited to the railroad workers who are known as “safety sensitive” employees. Now the FRA has decided to increase drug testing to encompass all railroad and transit workers, even those who don’t hold “safety sensitive” positions.

Safety sensitive workers labor in jobs that hold them responsible for their own well being, as well as the safety of other people. Besides railroad engineers, safety sensitive workers include milling machinists, bus drivers, pilots, explosives handlers, registered nurses, propane service techs, and a plethora of other high risk positions where diligence must be maintained. Safety sensitive workers must keep their wits about them, at all times. Drinking and/or using on the job are not only dangerous, but also highly irresponsible.

Imagine how frightening it would be for passengers and crew, who are on board a commercial airliner, to discover that their pilot is drunk and/or loaded!

And while that sounds farfetched, it has happened quite a few times.

According to NBC News, an intoxicated pilot boarded an aircraft carrying 99 passengers, and six flight crew members, including the pilot himself. The Sunwing Airlines flight was scheduled to leave on New Years Eve from Canada, with two stopovers in Regina and Winnipeg, with a final destination in Cancun, Mexico. While cabin crewmembers alerted the police, suspicious passengers left the plane or filmed the pilot’s slurred announcements, and posted them online. After the drunken pilot collapsed in the cockpit, he was arrested, and taken off board.

According to Calgary Newsroom reports, his alcohol level was .08, exceeding 80 mgs of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.

Some first responders are also considered safety sensitive workers, including paramedics and EMT’s. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has strict guidelines regarding substance abuse, and requires random drug and alcohol testing to ensure the safety of the worker, as well as the people around him.

For a safety sensitive worker who abuses alcohol and/or drugs, and has tested positive on a drug test, there is a good chance that they will be removed from duty. Usually, substance abuse professionals (SAP’s) are called in to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the employee. DOT’s main concern is the safety of the public.

But the bottom line is that the safety sensitive worker needs help.

Some companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), or confidential work based intervention programs that serve as a bridge between the employee struggling from chemical dependency and treatment.

Usually EAP’s are part of a benefit package, which is paid by a company. Besides helping an employee find the proper drug rehab and/or substance abuse counseling, EAP’s help clients with mental health issues secure proper care. EAP’s maintain clients’ confidentiality, as well as help them take the appropriate steps to get back to work, after they have undergone treatment.

At Cycles of Change, we provide EAP referrals for safety sensitive workers and first responders.

We offer clinical evidence-based treatment to help safety sensitive workers heal from substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

Our clinical team will provide you with an individualized treatment plan that will help you recover from the damages of substance abuse, as well as mental health issues like PTSD, trauma, and stress.

We also offer critical incident stress management (CSIM), which caters to the needs of our safety sensitive and first responder clients.

While based in Palmdale, California, we have a satellite facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, which provides comprehensive assessments, and transportation to one of our gorgeous Antelope Valley facilities.

We believe that safety sensitive workers who risk their lives to ensure the safety of society require compassionate, comprehensive and professional care.

We look forward to your call.