Safe railways for Australia

Safety Bulletin: Fatigue risk management programs and enterprise bargaining agreements

10 August 2018

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) undertakes regulatory activities to determine if rail transport operators (RTO) are in compliance with the requirements of Rail Safety National Law (RSNL). One of the fundamental principles is that an RTO is required to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable (SFAIRP), that rail safety workers do not carry out work while impaired by fatigue. This requirement applies to all rail safety workers.

Under the law an accredited RTO must have a safety management system (SMS) which includes a fatigue risk management program to be prepared and implemented by the RTO itself.

The fatigue risk management program must meet the requirements set out in regulation 29 of the National Regulations which identifies the key fatigue related risk factors that an RTO needs to take into account. These factors are not exhaustive and any potential issue that may relate to fatigue must be considered by the RTO as part of a thorough risk assessment process. This regulation requires an RTO to establish and maintain documented procedures to manage, SFAIRP, fatigue related risks.

Some RTOs may choose to apply some arrangements from enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA) to the fatigue risk management program, and in some states there are mandated maximum hours for some workers.

If an RTO’s SMS refers to controls in the EBA, or is mandated by legislation, the SMS must:

  • Specify the relevant controls that are applied to manage fatigue related risk (whether in the EBA or mandated by law)
  • Link the controls to a safety risk management process so it can be demonstrated that they are sufficient to manage risks arising from fatigue SFAIRP
  • Disseminate information about controls in the fatigue risk management program to the rail safety workers who are required to implement them (including any rail safety workers who are not subject to an EBA).

In the case of mandated shift lengths, if a maximum shift length is 11 hours the RTO still needs to be able to demonstrate why it is safe for that worker to work 11 hours. The fact it complies with the mandated maximum is not evidence of risk management SFAIRP. An assessment may determine that a shift length less than the mandated maximum be required in order to demonstrate the risk of fatigue is being managed SFAIRP.

When undertaking compliance activities ONRSR will seek to verify that the RTO is managing fatigue in accordance with its SMS and that process applied to develop and review the fatigue risk management program complies with the risk management requirements of the RSNL.

Further reading: ONRSR Safety Bulletin: Labour Hire and Fatigue Management