[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 247 (Thursday, December 24, 1998)]
[Page 71334]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-34054]



Federal Railroad Administration

Safe Use of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs

AGENCY: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice of safety advisory.


SUMMARY: FRA issues Safety Advisory 98-3 to address recommended 
practices for the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs 
by safety-sensitive railroad employees.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lamar Allen, Alcohol and Drug Program 
Manager, Office of Safety Assurance and Compliance, Operating Practices 
Division, Federal Railroad Administration, 1120 Vermont Avenue, NW, 
RRS-11, Mail Stop 25, Washington, DC 20590, (Telephone: (202) 493-6313) 
or Patricia V. Sun, Trial Attorney, Office of Chief Counsel, FRA, 1120 
Vermont Avenue, NW, RCC-11, Mail Stop 10, Washington, DC 20590, 
(Telephone: (202) 493-6060).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: FRA issues this advisory in support of DOT's 
efforts to ensure that transportation employees safely use prescription 
and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Safe rail operations depend upon 
alert and fully functional professionals who have not been adversely 
affected by drug use, whether medically appropriate (``legal'') or not. 
FRA has always prohibited illicit drug use and unauthorized use of 
controlled substances by safety-sensitive employees, but is equally 
concerned about the potentially adverse side effects from other 
prescription drugs and OTC products. Because DOT and FRA testing 
(including FRA's post-accident program) targets only alcohol and 
controlled substances, FRA does not have a clear picture of the extent 
to which the performance of safety-sensitive employees is adversely 
affected by legal drug use.
    Accordingly, although not specifically addressed in its alcohol and 
drug testing regulations (49 CFR part 219), FRA strongly recommends 
that rail employers and safety-sensitive employees follow Sec. 219.103 
guidelines when considering the use of all prescription and OTC drugs. 
Simply stated, in the interest of safety, FRA strongly recommends that 
either a treating medical professional or a railroad-designated 
physician make a fitness-for-work determination concerning all 
prescription and OTC drug use prior to permitting an employee to return 
to work in safety sensitive service. This determination should also be 
made whenever an employee currently performing safety-sensitive 
functions is concerned about possible effects on his or her job 
performance from the use of prescription or OTC drugs.
    Section 219.103(b) authorizes railroads to establish reporting and 
approval procedures for all prescription and OTC drugs which may have 
detrimental effects on safety. Additionally, FRA recommends that 
railroads educate their employees on these reporting and approval 
procedures and, most importantly, on how to use prescription and OTC 
medications safely.
    FRA will take all appropriate action to continue reducing the 
negative impact from inappropriate use of all prescription and OTC 
medications. Moreover, FRA strongly encourages the rail industry to 
voluntarily develop programs on safe prescription and OTC drug use 
before such programs are mandated or directed through legislation.

    Issued in Washington, D.C., on December 16, 1998.
George Gavalla,
Acting Associate Administrator for Safety.
[FR Doc. 98-34054 Filed 12-23-98; 8:45 am]