A national priority for ONRSR is defined as a rail safety area of regulatory focus that applies to multiple jurisdictions and operators and warrants a sustained period of regulatory attention. ONRSR typically targets its national priorities through operator-centric national compliance projects or industry-wide, education-focused safety improvement projects.
ONRSR applied a structured, evidence-based risk assessment process to identify the following four national priority areas of regulatory focus:
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.
Operators are directly accountable and responsible for safety within the scope of their operations. Following the principle that safety cannot be contracted out, this accountability and responsibility for safety remains with the operator even when they employ a person or organisation, through contracts, to carry out rail safety work.
Those who carry out rail safety work for an accredited operator (e.g. design, commission, manufacture, supply, install, maintain or build anything used in connection with rail infrastructure or rolling stock) also have obligations – known as general duties – to ensure what they do is safe. This includes workers contracted under labour hire arrangements who undertake rail safety work.
Regulatory activities conducted by ONRSR have identified a number of concerns in relation to contractor management, including:
Under RSNL operators are required to specify the control measures they use to manage the safety risks associated with their rail operations and to have control assurance procedures in place for monitoring, reviewing and revising the adequacy of those controls.
Control assurance is a critical component of the risk management element of an operator’s SMS. When done well it provides risk owners, duty holders and (when required) ONRSR, with assurance that all reasonably practicable safety control measures are in place and working effectively to manage operational safety risks.
Regulatory activities conducted by ONRSR have identified inconsistent or inadequate control assurance practices by operators across all sectors of the rail industry. Weaknesses identified include a lack of robust, rail safety-focussed internal audit programs within operator organisations and a lack of risk-based monitoring of safety controls implemented by rail safety workers (e.g. worksite protection planning and right of way procedures)..