Recommendation Date
Recipient Name
The use of performance impairing substances is known to have a detrimental effect on the ability of people to safely operate in critical transport environments. The Commission recommends that the Secretary for Transport promotes the introduction of a drug and alcohol detection and deterrence regime for persons employed in safety critical transport roles
Reply Text
I accept the specific recommendation 011/12 directed to the Secretary for Transport.
I also urge the Commission to note the existing health and safety in employment regulatory regime, where drugs and alcohol are specifically mentioned in the definition of hazard. This regime already places obligations on both employers and employees.
Since the Fox Glacier accident the Minister of Transport has approved a new Rule Part 115 that entered into force in November 2011. The Rule requires adventure aviation operations to be certified by 1 May 2012. Adventure aviation organisations, including commercial parachuting, now face the risk that their safety certification can be suspended and removed for safety violations. This gives such operators a stronger incentive to ensure they address alcohol and drug taking safety risks in their organisations.
Over the next two years the Government will be considering rule amendments that would require aviation organisations to introduce safety management systems. This would require certificated operators to assess and mitigate all safety risks relevant to their operation. This risk of intoxication of personnel by drugs and alcohol would clearly be a safety risk that we would expect both operators and the Civil Aviation Authority (when certifying and auditing aviation organisations) to be actively addressing under an SMS regime. Decisions will also be made in the near future to ensure that the Civil Aviation Authority is resourced to transition to the ICAO-endorsed SMS approach which has widespread industry support.
Whilst recognising that where the illegal use of drugs is involved, changing individual behaviour will be challenging, the Ministry will encourage the Civil Aviation Authority to step up its effort to alert the aviation community through education of the risks that drugs pose to the safety operation of aviation undertakings. This will require an ongoing effort.
As you are aware, the Ministry has developed a Transport Regulatory Policy Statement that specific rule changes may not always be the best interventions to achieve desire safety outcomes. Non-regulatory interventions can often be more appropriate. In this regard we appreciate the Commission's recommendation to promote a drug and alcohol detection and deterrence regime, rather than to implement a regime.
The Ministry of Transport has in the past sponsored an inter-agency Substance Impairment Group. This looked at whether or not compulsory random drug and alcohol testing, and specific breath alcohol limits, should be required by regulation in the aviation, marine and rail transports modes. In part because of a lack of data, we were not convinced at that time that the costs would outweigh the benefits. We will, however, monitor international experience in this regard and, in particular, the recent relevant changes in the Australian aviation regime.
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