track worker

Global study to provide best practices for track worker safety

Australian rail safety organisations will conduct a global investigation of best practices to inform track worker safety practices.

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) have tasked the Australian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) to report to the Australian industry on promising initiatives overseas.

ONRSR chief executive Sue McCarrey said that there is always room for improvement.

“This is about saving lives. Too many track workers have lost their lives in tragic and, on many occasions, avoidable accidents and we must always be exploring what more can be done to prevent them,” she said.

“Track worker safety is a long-standing national priority for ONRSR and together with our partner agencies we have an opportunity to facilitate really effective change.”

Over the next six months, ACRI will explore and identify existing technology and techniques which improve track worker safety. The research institute will then understand how these practices can be applied locally or modified to fit Australian standards, providing insights into how operators can implement the approaches.

RISSB CEO Deb Spring said that the investigation would take a comprehensive look at safety.

“This project will form a critical component of a suite of related RISSB initiatives, offering both engineering solutions and exploring options around planning, communication and culture,” she said.

“This important work will help the Australian rail industry drive improvements in the safety of its most important asset – our people.”

Once a survey of international best practices is complete, ACRI will develop a database of track worker safety technology based on international case studies. A final report based on local stakeholder engagement will enumerate the best options for the Australian rail industry.

ACRI chief executive Andrew Meier said the organisation was proud to work with RISSB and ONRSR on the project.

“Trusted information made readily available is vital to rail decision making,” he said.

ONRSR hails a decade of progress on safety

Chief executive of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and national rail safety regulator, Sue McCarrey, has highlighted that over the last 10 years the rail industry is “making great progress” on rail safety.

“I’m very confident that Australian rail networks are now safer for the people using and working in railways and while like everyone in this business I’m very keen to see the next reform and to capitalise on the next opportunity, it doesn’t hurt to stop and contemplate what’s been achieved, which is really quite extraordinary,” said McCarrey.

In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decided to establish a national rail safety regulator and in the decade since, national legislation has been drafted and passed in all states and territories.

In addition, the national regulator has been set up and is operational around Australia.

“To establish national law that facilitates the removal of barriers to safety and efficiency that have existed for more than a century is significant enough. But when you consider we’ve then been able to consistently apply that law right across the country – that’s worth commemorating.” said McCarrey.

In the standardisation of rail safety regulation across Australia, the ONRSR as replaced seven different regulations with a single law. This has led to a single accreditation process and nationally consistent data sets.

Implementation has been conducted through an annual national Rail Safety Report, 65 guidelines and specialised guidance for major rail projects, and a risk-based national work program of safety audits.

At the end of 2019, the decade was capped off with the full transition of the rail safety regulatory role in Victoria to the ONRSR. This followed transitions in jurisdictions beginning in South Australia, then NSW, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory, with the ACT, Western Australia, and Queensland following.

“There is obviously still plenty of work to be done as we enter a new decade but we are, as a risk-based regulator working under a co-regulatory model, making great progress in delivering on the outcomes and objectives of improved rail safety and seamless national safety regulation,” said McCarrey.

In 2020, the ONRSR will improve the use of data and look to make the industry as efficient, productive, and safe as it can be.