The Transportation Department announced yesterday that it has completed regulations that will forbid railroad employes from reporting to work drunk or drugged and ban consumption of alcohol or narcotics while they are on the job.
The regulations come 12 years after the National Transportation Safety Board first called for such rules. There has been a rash of deadly freight train derailments linked to drinking and drugs in recent years.
Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole said the rules, which go into effect Nov. 1, "will protect the public and railroad employes from the consequences of on-the-job drug and alcohol use."
There are now no federal regulations banning alcohol and drug use by railroad workers, although some companies have rules banning it. Safety Board Chairman Jim Burnett said earlier this year, "In fact, as far as federal rules are concerned, a railroad engineer can consume a bottle of whiskey while at the controls."
Burnett endorsed the government action yesterday, saying, "The critical test of the success of this rule dealing with drunk or drugged railroaders remains the vigor with which the Federal Railroad Administration will enforce it and the recognition by all levels of the rail industry that rigorous application of the rule is in their self interest."
The safety rules would also require alcohol and drug testing of employes involved in a major accident, authorize toxicological testing of workers when there is reason to suspect impairment and mandate pre-employment drug screening.
The provisions concerning post-accident testing and pre-employment drug screening will become mandatory Dec. 1 and March 1, 1986, respectively. The government said the extra time was allowed so railroads can select medical facilities where samples will be collected and make other arrangements.
Dole has been criticized by some members of Congress for the time taken to clear the rule. It was proposed in early 1983.