Under the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL), a rail safety worker must not carry out or attempt to carry out rail safety work while there is any presence of alcohol or a ‘prescribed drug’ in their system.

Requirements for rail transport operators

To reduce the risks to workers and the general public, rail transport operators are required to have a Drug and Alcohol Management Program (DAMP) in place, which includes drug and alcohol testing of their workers. Guidance on the preparation of a DAMP, including a drug and alcohol testing regime, is included in the Safety Management System guideline.

Rail transport operators are also required to:

  • Immediately report Category A notifiable occurrences and conduct mandatory drug and alcohol testing where ONRSR or the police have not tested following specific Category A occurrences:
    • Collision (excluding attempted or suspected self-harm incidents)
    • Derailment
    • Proceed Authority Exceeded
    • Runaway
    • Network Rule or Procedure Breach
    • Person / Train Interface
  • Report the results of testing to ONRSR.
  • Provide monthly drug and alcohol testing information to ONRSR.

Further guidance on these requirements is in the Drug and Alcohol: Requirements for rail transport operators fact sheet and available on the Notifiable Occurrences webpage.

Requirements for rail transport operators in NSW

Drug and alcohol testing under the RSNL carried out by operators in NSW must be conducted by an authorised person appointed under the RSNL. Authorised persons must hold an identity card issued by either ONRSR, or an RTO or third party service provider that has been issued with a sub-delegation by ONRSR.

Other drug and alcohol management requirements applying specifically to rail operations in NSW include:

  • annual random testing of at least 25% of rail safety workers (commercial operators only);
  • mandatory post-incident testing following a NSW prescribed incident; and
  • additional reporting of certain events.

Further guidance on these requirements is in the Drug and Alcohol: Requirements for rail transport operators (NSW Only) fact sheet and the Drug and Alcohol: NSW Authorised Person Appointment Process and issue of identity cards Fact Sheet.

Links to forms for appointing an authorised person and reporting in NSW are provided on this page.

ONRSR’s Testing program

In addition to the programs put in place by operators, ONRSR undertakes:

  • programmed testing including intelligence-led risk-based testing and random testing; and
  • post-incident testing undertaken in response to Category A occurrences.

The ONRSR drug and alcohol testing program, which was established in accordance with the Rail Safety National Law, aims to:

  • improve the safety of rail by deterring the use of drugs and alcohol by workers;
  • monitor compliance with the RSNL; and
  • monitor the effectiveness of a rail transport operator’s DAMP.

ONRSR has appointed AusHealth Work to undertake drug and alcohol testing on its behalf. AusHealth Work testers are appointed as authorised persons and carry an ONRSR-issued identity card.

Further guidance on ONRSR’s testing program is available from the ONRSR Drug and Alcohol Testing policy and the Drug and Alcohol: ONRSR’s Testing Program fact sheet.

Requirements for Rail Safety Workers

Rail safety workers also have specific duties for drug and alcohol management and may be subject to disciplinary actions by the operator and/or penalties for not complying with the testing requirements for a rail transport operator or an Authorised Person (i.e. ONRSR).

Drug and alcohol offences include:

  • the presence of alcohol in the rail safety worker’s blood, or a prescribed drug (cannabis, methamphetamine/ ‘speed’ or MDMA/ ‘ecstasy’) in their oral fluid or blood;
  • being under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • refusing a test;
  • not following the direction of an authorised person;
  • interfering or tampering with a sample; or
  • hindering or obstructing an authorised person.

The maximum penalty is $10,000.

There is an additional offence for intimidating, threatening or assaulting an authorised person, which carries a penalty of $50,000 or two years imprisonment (or both).

Rail safety workers in NSW may face additional penalties (refer to ONRSR’s Drugs and Alcohol: Requirements for rail transport operators (NSW Only) fact sheet).

Further guidance is available from the Duties of Rail Safety Workers fact sheet.

Last updated: Dec 7, 2023, 11:40:33 AM