And about 10 percent of Amtrak employees in safety-related positions, 1,157 employees, filled an opioid prescription while they were in an active work status, putting them at risk for being impaired on the job.
In 2016, an Amtrak train collided with a backhoe in Chester, Pennsylvania, resulting in two employee fatalities and 39 injuries to crew and passengers. One of the two employees who died in the accident, a supervisor standing next to the backhoe that was struck, had codeine and morphine in his system. That accident was not blamed on drug use, but the NTSB criticized Amtrak at the time for having a “weak” safety culture.
The NTSB report said it was “unclear” if the drugs impaired the supervisor’s ability to do his job and said in its findings that “the absence of a random drug testing program for maintenance-of-way employees at the time of the accident meant there was no effective program to deter the maintenance of way employees from doing drugs.”
The report found that the company’s benefits administrators, CVS/Caremark and Aetna, are capable of reporting key information to employers using the administrators’ opioid monitoring tools — information that could help detect or deter opioid misuse. But the company does not avail itself of that information, the report found, recommending that it use that information to help better capture potential drug abuse.
The inspector general in March 2019 called for the company to further strengthen its drug testing program, and Amtrak complied. Still, the new report calls for the federally subsidized passenger rail line to expand its random drug testing program.