Decision to be made on fatigue management
Australia’s transport ministers will this Friday come together to consider a Regulator Impact Statement (RIS) regarding whether the new Rail Safety National Law should further regulate, and place limits around, hours of work and rest for rail safety workers, including the national harmonisation of shift limits for train drivers.
The reform would see the national harmonisation of rail safety regulation by removing 12-hour shift limits for train drivers. Under the new law, each rail operator would need to be able to demonstrate to the National Rail Safety Regulator (NRSR) that their fatigue management program satisfies the requirements as stipulated in the two pages of regulations (known as regulation 29).
At the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) in November 2011, transport ministers approved the Rail Safety National Law, but acknowledged that further work was to be undertaken in relation to the new law and the issue of fatigue management, in addition to that which was already contained in the National Law.
To assist ministers with this decision, a Regulator Impact Statement (RIS) was prepared addressing these issues and public consultation was undertaken on the draft RIS in February/March 2012.
Following feedback from this consultation a final RIS has been prepared and is with ministers for their consideration at their meeting on Friday May 18.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) chief executive Bryan Nye told Rail Express that over-prescriptive regulation that limits work hours would stop industry innovation and restrict the industry from the benefits of its work with fatigue experts.
One such expert is Professor Drew Dawson from the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research who told Rail Express that the reform being proposed was based upon “best practice approaches” to improving safety drawn from around the world.
“The approach emphasises a risk and safety management systems framework with the focus on ensuring safety rather than compliance,” Dawson said.
“The basic idea behind this approach is to treat fatigue as a safety issue and to manage the risk emphasising principles drawn from safety science rather than custom and practice – as is often the case when safety is dominated by industrial negotiations.”
However, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) maintains that, “Academic research has now clearly shown that the only way to ensure fatigue related accidents and fatalities are minimised is to extend the NSW shift length maximums [12 hours] nationwide,” a spokesperson for the RTBU told Rail Express.
“It is vital that minister's vote to include maximum shift lengths and minimum rest breaks in national law,” the spokesperson said.
Nye maintained that as industry moves towards the establishment of one NRSR, Australia was “finally moving away from the red tape imposed by seven rail safety regulators with seven sets of rules operating across eight states”.
National Transport Regulations Reform
5th - 6th June 2012 | Realm Hotel Canberra
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