ONRSR driving a national approach to rail safety

The Australian rail industry will continue to see a more national approach to rail safety regulation, attendees heard at the 20th annual Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) Rail Safety Conference.

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) chief executive and National Rail Safety Regulator Sue McCarrey said that since the regulator become truly national at the end of 2019 with Victoria joining the program, the body has been working to align standards across states and territories.

Across ONRSR’s four priorities, track worker safety, contractor management, level crossing safety, and control assurance, efforts are being taken to standardise safety approaches with better outcomes for the rail industry.

“There are huge advantages to being truly national,” said McCarrey.

One area where this is currently occurring is in the development of a guideline for fatigue management. By looking at the issues from the perspective of the impact of fatigue on rail safety risk, ONRSR hopes to enable operators to follow one practice across different states.

McCarrey said that these efforts were recognised in the recent Productivity Commission report which identified that ONRSR was the leading Commonwealth transport regulator in delivering a nationally-harmonised approach.

With the national model now established, McCarrey said that ONRSR would look further into encouraging the uptake of more advanced technology, including in cab video and audio recordings.

The adoption of modern technology to improve track worker safety is another area where McCarrey said that a risk-based approach to safety is allowing for innovation in the industry. With technology now costing much less than it did five to 10 years ago, the obligation for rial organisations to ensure safety so far as reasonably practicable is enabling the adoption of new technology.

McCarrey said that ONRSR would also be looking at where it can further develop its own practices and encourage regulatory reform.

“We should constantly be looking at how we can improve,” said McCarrey.

Looking towards 2025, McCarrey said that with the rapid deployment of new technology, the best fit for regulation may need to adapt.