RSNL Fatigue Management review

As part of ATHRA’s ongoing work with the  rail industry through our membership of the ARA we recently participated in a review of the fatigue management part of the Rail safety National Law

It is important for the T&H sector that the current risk based fatigue management regime continues rather than one based on mandatory hours of duty as applies in Qld and NSW. That is in essence what is industry response argues

Below is part of the joint ARA/FORG submission that has been provided to ONRSR. This aligns with the views expressed by industry in our first submission to this process. Now we await the final paper and recommendations from ONRSR.

We write on behalf of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia member organisations in response to the three recommendations the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) has proposed in its Fatigue Risk Management Review Consultation Paper. 

Recommendation 1: Continue to apply the current fatigue provisions of the Rail Safety National Law. 

Not supported. 

This is a significant national reform opportunity. In its paper, ONRSR states that “a nationally consistent risk-based approach to fatigue risk management encompassing all rail safety workers would be best suited to the Australian rail context, both in terms of delivering on safety and productivity benefits”. To recommend no change would be a missed opportunity.

Prescribed hours for train drivers are inflexible; remove the ability for operators to deal with unforeseen events with any degree of agility, create internal compliance burdens, inefficiencies, diminish rail’s competitiveness and potentially drive more freight to road.

With no evidence to justify the continuation of the prescriptive NSW and QLD schedules, this review provides an opportunity to recommend the removal of the NSW and QLD variations to ensure the benefits of nationally consistent rail safety regulation are realised. 

A consistent, national approach to fatigue management is appropriate for a national industry. Removing the NSW and QLD schedules and being consistent nationally should be the key recommendation of the ONRSR review.

Recommendation 2: ONRSR to complete a further review of the fatigue provisions of the Rail Safety National Law in five years, if not required earlier. 

Not supported. 

ONRSR, Government and Industry have invested considerable resources and funding into the current review. This investment should not be disregarded through recommendations to maintain the status quo and repeat the process in five years’ time. Further, the ONRSR report did not find evidence to support maintaining the NSW and QLD schedules. 

The industry position is that the ONRSR recommend the removal of the NSW and QLD schedules and adopt a single risk-based approach to fatigue management for all Rail Safety Workers, regardless of jurisdiction.

Recommendation 3: Note that ONRSR will produce guidance materials on fatigue risk management under the Rail Safety National Law to support operators. 


Industry welcomes the recommendation to develop further guidance on how to best manage fatigue and is willing to work closely with ONRSR in developing this guidance material.

The ARA, FORG and broader rail industry welcome the opportunity to continue working closely with ONRSR on this important national reform opportunity to achieve a nationally consistent fatigue management regulatory framework that will provide safety and productivity benefits to Australia’s rail industry