ONRSR’s aim has been to heighten the awareness of track worker safety to both industry and workers alike by increasing its presence in the field, challenging operators to demonstrate their commitment through training, monitoring, review and enforcement activities, and by running a theatre-based safety improvement program for frontline workers.
Following its adoption as a national priority, and an initial focus on worker competency and safety critical communications, ONRSR shifted the scope of its work relating to track worker safety. Over the last 2 years an emphasis has been placed on the collection of better incident data from operators, exploring innovative options for promoting and improving track worker safety, and on the performance of specific compliance activities.
The number of higher risk occurrences involving near misses or workers in the danger zone without appropriate protection must be reduced and ONRSR believes operators should fully understand their risk profile associated with track worker safety. ONRSR will conduct audits of those operators it considers having the highest track worker safety risk profile but also expects RTOs to challenge themselves to fully understand their own risks and to consider what proven technology exists to help manage them SFAIRP.
To increase awareness of the safety issue among track workers themselves, ONRSR increased the number of inspections conducted, assessing not only the legality of protection arrangements in place but also the overall competency of the rail safety workers implementing them. A key target of the revised inspection regime was addressing ONRSR’s concerns regarding the use of labour hire workers, particularly in emergency situations. ONRSR is continuing to prioritise the protection of track workers. Dedicated in field inspections and improved data analysis will continue to headline the approach along with an emphasis on determining which occurrences are investigated – and to what level. Monitoring of operators’ risk assessments and controls will also be a key activity along with closer scrutiny of what self-assurance operators are generating through their own reviews of track worker safety strategies and outcomes, including learnings from incident investigations.
On 12 May 2021, ONRSR in conjunction with the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), released the results of a global investigation into how world standard technology can protect track workers in the Australian rail industry.
Titled Track Worker Safety Options, the interactive report has been a year in the making and explores the many and varied options available to rail transport operators to drive and inform future investment in, and implementation of, track worker safety treatments.
The report, overseen by the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation, is the culmination of extensive research to identify applicable technologies, and comprehensive engagement with stakeholders around the country, to first characterise the technology and ultimately examine a path to adoption that is both effective and commercially viable.
Download a copy of the report and additional information here.