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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

What constitutes a post-accident test? What is the definition of an accident?

View the full FAQ here.

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA’s) drug and alcohol testing regulation (14 CFR part 120) describes when an employer is required to conduct and when an employee must submit to post-accident drug and/or alcohol testing.  

As soon as practicable following an accident, each employer must test each surviving safety-sensitive employee for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, opioids, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines, or a metabolite of those drugs in the employee's system, and for alcohol, if that employee's performance either contributed to the accident or cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor to the accident.  

For post-accident drug testing, the employee must be tested as soon as possible but not later than 32 hours after the accident.  

For post-accident alcohol testing, the employee must be tested as soon as possible but the time of testing cannot exceed 8 hours from the time of the accident.  If a test is not administered within 2 hours following the accident, the employer must prepare and maintain on file a record stating the reasons why the test was not promptly administered.  If a test is not administered within 8 hours following the accident, the employer must cease attempts to administer an alcohol test and must prepare and maintain the same record.

The decision not to administer a test must be based on the employer’s determination, using the best information available at the time of the determination, that the employee's performance could not have contributed to the accident. 

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) define an accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, AND in which any person suffers death or serious injury or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.  The NTSB regulations (49 CFR part 830) define "serious injury" and "substantial damage" as follows:

Serious injury means any injury which: (1) Requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received; (2) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose); (3) causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; (4) involves any internal organ; or (5) involves second- or third-degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.”

Substantial damage means damage or failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft, and which would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component. Engine failure or damage limited to an engine if only one engine fails or is damaged, bent fairings or cowling, dented skin, small punctured holes in the skin or fabric, ground damage to rotor or propeller blades, and damage to landing gear, wheels, tires, flaps, engine accessories, brakes, or wingtips are not considered “substantial damage” for the purpose of this part.”

Monetary damage is not a factor in determining what constitutes an "accident."

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance that is more specific to your situation, please contact the FAA Drug Abatement Division at (202) 267-8442 or  

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Applicable Regulations: