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 WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- The Air Line Pilots Association today repeated its opposition to random testing and called for more safeguards on the government's proposed program to test airline employees for alcohol abuse.
 "ALPA already has gone on record opposing random testing for drugs, and that same position now applies to random testing for alcohol," said Capt. Don McGregor, executive chairman for Aeromedical Resources for the Air Line Pilots Association. McGregor was speaking at a hearing in Washington by the Department of Transportation on its proposed alcohol testing rules for transportation employees.
 Since government regulators are well aware that there has never been an accident on a scheduled U.S. airline where alcohol abuse was cited as the probable cause, McGregor called random testing "a solution in search of a problem."
 "It is bad enough that it is unnecessary; it also is invasive, inefficient and ineffective compared to preventive education and the other forms of testing that we support," McGregor said.
 "I do want to make it very clear, however, that we are not opposed to all forms of testing. We recognize the usefulness of pre- employment screening and testing after accidents or for probable cause. Nevertheless, random alcohol testing has been mandated by Congress, and that's why we're here today," McGregor said.
 ALPA is in the process of preparing its written comments to the proposed rule, so McGregor's oral comments focused mainly on concerns about safeguards and the definition of impairment.
 "We find it very disturbing that the rule makes no provision for independent review of the results prior to the finding of a rule violation. The FAA's rules on drug testing require that all positive results be reviewed by a qualified Medical Review Officer, and it is only after such review by the MRO that a drug test can be designated and acted upon as a positive result. We strongly recommend that all positive findings in alcohol testing be reviewed by a qualified MRO," McGregor said.
 Since Congress has mandated random testing, much of the debate now centers on details of administration and procedures that may seem inconsequential to an outsider but are critically important to those who will be subjected to testing.
 "For example, we are very uncomfortable with the provision that the same breath analysis machine can be used on the confirmatory test as was used on the initial test. We would prefer to see a second machine used in that capacity," McGregor said.
 "One of our strongest objections is that the proposed rule creates a new, lowered threshold level, that is, the range between .02 and .04 percent. We see some potentially serious problems with this, both in the area of defining the impairment of human performance, and in our ability to accurately test at such levels. Our knowledge of impairment at the 0.02 to 0.04 percent level, and in fact our ability to accurately measure blood alcohol at those levels, is seriously open to question. This is particularly true since we are not measuring the blood alcohol level directly from a blood sample, but are using conversion factors to translate a breath sample to an equivalent blood alcohol reading, which introduces its own uncertainties into the measurements. The interests of safety and fairness will better served if we maintain .04 percent as the cut-off for an FAA violation," McGregor said.
 McGregor noted that it was ALPA that first recognized the need to deal proactively with alcohol abuse in the airline industry.
 "In 1974 ALPA established a program to detect pilots with alcohol problems, get them out of the cockpit and into rehabilitation. This program has been enormously successful over the years, and even became the model for the American Medical Association to develop a similar program for doctors. And just last year ALPA received a $400,000 contract from the FAA to educate pilots and teach the HIMS methodology to other carriers and health care professionals," McGregor said.
 Because of the success of ALPA's detection and rehabilitation program, McGregor said that "ALPA strongly objects to the lack of any requirement for employee rehabilitation. The success of ALPA's HIMS program underscores three important facts: First, preventing this disease through education is cheaper than curing it or living with the consequences of it; second, detection of alcohol abusers by peers and thoroughly trained supervisors is efficient and effective; and third, rehabilitation is both humane and cost effective."
 Headquartered in Washington, ALPA is the union that represents 41,000 airline pilots at 44 U.S. carriers.
 -0- 2/25/93
 /NOTE: Copy of McGregor's text available on request./
 /CONTACT: John Mazor of the Air Line Pilots Association, 202-797-4060/

CO: Air Line Pilots Association ST: District of Columbia IN: AIR SU:

DC -- DC006 -- 0293 02/25/93 10:14 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 25, 1993
Next Article:FORD IN OHIO - 1992

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