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.

Update - November 2023

ONRSR has completed a comprehensive safety improvement project in relation to Contractor Management that has culminated in a series of targeted regulatory activities throughout 2023.

In all more than 20 audits and inspections of a range of rail transport operators’ approach to contractor management across the country, have been undertaken, with an analysis of the actions providing encouraging results for the national regulator.

While a number of instances of non-compliance were recorded and some safety observations made as part of the in-field activities, ONRSR was pleased with the overall performance with evidence that many operators identified and implemented their own improvements in relation to contractor management.

These include:

  • Operators now including contractors in the risk assessment process, rather than the previous approach of dictating the outcomes to the contractor.
  • Operators revisiting interface agreements to update and make clear who the accredited entity is.
  • Operators improving or increasing the resources dedicated to contractor management issues and systems.
  • Operators improving assurance processes and activities regarding contractor works.
  • Operators implementing processes to ensure they have an appropriate level of control and management over the work being performed.

Most of these initiatives came as a result of the work ONRSR has done with the operators throughout the first three phases of the contractor management project.

Phase one involved a detailed investigation of the contractor management landscape across the rail industry which included an analysis of incident data and industry intelligence. This was followed in phase two by the engagement of around 150 nominated contractors by ONRSR rail safety officers to further sharpen the focus on the issues at play in the industry.

From there the project moved into a third phase that involved the development of educational materials covering the range of safety issues identified, that was then presented via interactive sessions to various rail transport operators.

In hailing the project a success, ONRSR is reminding all operators that they must have robust systems in place for managing contractors to address the risk of legal breaches and safety incidents. Regulatory activities targeting the use of contractors in the Australian rail industry will continue, including extending this activity to operators who were not engaged under the original project program.

A range of resources can be found in the 'Related information' section on this page - and for further information in relation to contractor management get in touch with your local ONRSR office.

Update - December 2022

Phase 3 of the project is now finished, with a range of operator engagement activities undertaken throughout 2022 proving to be an unbridled success for ONRSR and the rail industry alike.

Having spent the first part of the year carefully curating a program of educational material covering the broad safety issues identified via discussions with more than 80 contractors during Phase 2, ONRSR has now completed a series of education sessions with operators.

ONRSR offices around the country were involved in the delivery of these interactive sessions to a combination of rail transport operators and rail infrastructure managers, responsible for both light and heavy rail operations. To date the feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive with those who attended particularly appreciative of ONRSR’s decision to hold one-on-one, compliance focussed sessions. Some samples of the comments provided are provided below:

Very interesting, covered a wide range of applicable topics and examples - cleared up misconceptions.

Very valuable and reinforces obligations – appreciate the sessions were provided to individual operators to allow for open discussion on specific information.

A good example of a coregulatory approach to the issue, rather than just going and conducting audits or inspections related to Contractor Management.

To date around 400 rail and safety professionals have been involved in the in the sessions and plans are already in place to satisfy requests for additional sessions.

Phase 4 of the Contractor Management ONRSR National Priority will commence in 2023, with a series of regulatory activities focusing on compliance with the RSNL and SMS requirements – the scope of these activities will be largely driven by the content of the education sessions. The results of these activities will help ONRSR understand any remaining industry gaps that will inform future work programs for regulatory staff around the country.

A PDF copy of the presentation ONRSR has provided to participants in our interactive education sessions is available via the link provided HERE.

Update - November 2021

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.

Update - July 2021

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.

Last updated: Nov 6, 2023, 10:47:42 AM