Under the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL), safety is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders (operators, workers and ONRSR) as well as those who supply or provide services.
The increasing use of contractors in the Australian rail industry, their vulnerability to breaches of the law and tendency to be involved in accidents remains a serious concern for ONRSR. A national priority since 2020, the issue is being addressed via a 4-phase program of works covering information gathering, contractor engagement, operator engagement and overall compliance. Phases 1 and 2 are complete and over the next two years, the remaining phases will be rolled out, culminating in targeted compliance activities, including audits and inspections that will drive improved safety performance in this area.
Phase 2 of the project has now been completed, with ONRSR engaging directly with 81 contracting companies within the rail industry. These discussions gathered information and feedback on the below broad themes:
> General information about the contracting organisation;
> Scope of services they provide on Australian rail networks;
> Rail Transport Operators they engage with / contract to;
> Type and scale/size of contracts they are involved in;
> Knowledge and understanding of RSNL and requirements under the legislation;
> Challenges experienced while contracting in the rail industry;
> Safety issues;
> Any other topics they wished to discuss with the regulator.
These discussions with contracting companies were overwhelmingly positive, with an eagerness to discuss these themes with the regulator and obtain further education about working safely in the rail industry.
The ONRSR project team is currently analysing the responses for trends or themes experienced by contractors in the rail industry, to inform the continued development of the remaining phases of the national priority.
ONRSR intends to move to phase 3 (Operator Engagement) with a series of focus activities for RTO’s in early 2022, presenting findings from the first 2 phases of the project.
Currently, the project is sitting within phase 2 – Contractor Engagement – which involves the engagement of approximately 150 nominated contractors by ONRSR’s rail safety officers (RSOs).
This engagement has commenced with letters being sent to contractors,detailing the background to this particular national priority and proposing a meeting to discuss their concerns and issues.
The meeting also serves as an opportunity to educate industry with the contractor management information sheets that were developed as an integral part of the operator engagement phase.
Initial responses and feedback to the invitations have been overwhelmingly positive and have demonstrated a willingness to participate, with many viewing the strategy as an excellent safety initiative by ONRSR. Several contractors have made senior managers and executives available to meet with ONRSR indicating the seriousness with which they take this issue and the opportunity to engage with us.
During the meetings held to date, there has been a valuable exchange of information and identification of safety themes – information that will not only drive the remainder of this project but will assist ONRSR in scoping their BAU activities with operators in the future.