For railroad workers, Rule G is one of the strictest rules in the workplace, prohibiting the use or possession of alcohol while on the job.
Rule G sets the allowable blood alcohol content (BAC) for railroaders while working at 0.00 (i.e. ZERO), and allows an employer to ask an employee take a breathalyzer test or submit a urine sample if it’s “reasonably” suspected they are under the influence. If you are caught violating Rule G, or refuse a breathalyzer or urine test, you will be immediately removed from work, an investigation will be held, and you could face termination.
The reason that Rule G is so strict is that consuming alcohol in any amount before or while working can severely impact a railroader’s ability to maintain a safe working environment. It impairs judgment, slows reaction times, and can put the safety of the individual railroader, fellow employees, passengers, and the general public in jeopardy. Numerous train accidents have been linked directly to a railroader being under the influence of alcohol at the time.
Rule G does not mean you can’t drink on your off hours – but you must be careful and take precautions to ensure there is no trace of alcohol in your system by the time you report for work. And, of course, you should never consume alcohol while on the job.
Railroaders often run into trouble with Rule G because they may not understand how alcohol is processed by the body and how much time they should leave between their last drink and when they report for work. They might also confuse the BAC requirements of Rule G with their state’s drinking and driving laws, which have an allowable limit of anywhere from .05 to .09. Rule G is far stricter, allowing for no alcohol whatsoever in a railroader’s system while at work. Zero Tolerance.
The only way to lower your BAC after drinking is to wait, and nothing will speed up how quickly alcohol clears your system. It takes the time it takes. You can’t drink coffee or eat a sandwich or take a nap to make the process faster. Only time will do it.
It also doesn’t matter if you drink wine, beer, or spirits – they all affect your BAC the same way. Where the body is concerned, an ounce of alcohol is an ounce of alcohol. An ounce of 100-proof liquor, one 12 oz beer, and one four-ounce glass of wine all contain one ounce of alcohol and, for most people, contribute 0.02 to your BAC. Each additional ounce of alcohol will raise your BAC by .02. The body eliminates alcohol from the bloodstream at a rate of .015 per hour after the first hour from when you start drinking.
So, if you start drinking at 8 p.m. and have 12 beers OR 5 martinis OR 5 Manhattans, your BAC will reach .25. After the first hour, your BAC will drop at a rate of .015 per hour, and it will take 17.6 hours for it to reach 0.00. That means if you started drinking at 8 p.m., you will not be fit for work until 1:45 the next day. If you report for work at any time before that, you will be in violation of Rule G and would fail a breathalyzer or urine test. These statistics are not absolutes for everyone and you should not rely on them as a guide as to how much you can drink and when you are able to work. They are given as examples of statistics that can be found in various textbooks.
Railroaders face severe consequences for violating Rule G, because it requires a 0.00 BAC at all times while working. Not paying attention to how much you drink and when can lead to you losing your job.
If you have been found in violation of Rule G it is imperative that you consult your union representative and an experienced FELA attorney – please contact us to discuss your options.