12:00 am, Tuesday 25 September, 2007
Source: Herald Sun
RAILCORP in NSW is in the grip of a workplace drugs epidemic, with soaring rates of ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamine use detected among track workers in random tests.
One in 13 contract employees working in critical safety roles on lines failed drugs tests this year, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
The shock rate of drug use is five times higher than positive detections among RailCorp’s full-time employees on stations and trains.
Detection of “drugs of abuse” has rocketed from one in 18 contract workers in 2005/06 to one in 13 this year, according to 351 test results which were obtained by way of Freedom of Information.
RailCorp’s own employees fail at a rate of less than one in 50.
Random urine tests have detected the presence of methylamphetamines (speed), MDMA (ecstasy) and opiates (heroin) as well as marijuana.
The rising tide of illegal substance use among trackworkers has raised fears, not only for the safety of crews, but puts a question mark over the safety and standard of rail infrastructure across NSW.
RailCorp has spent millions over the past five years implementing safety recommendations from the Glenbrook and Waterfall accident inquiries.
Since downsizing its inhouse trackwork crews in 2004, RailCorp spends about $200 million each year on contract labour.
The rail operator currently has 229 individual companies listed on its books and these have been supplying everything from engineers to labourers.
Last year trackwork crews laid 85,000 new concrete sleepers and 30,000 new timber sleepers, reconstructed more than 50km of track and resurfaced more than 650km of track.
The Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator said employers have to issue rail safety workers with certificates to prove they are of good health and fitness and a fit and proper person.
Rail unions last night said the fragmentation of the infrastructure work force has left the system open to employing and re-employing undesirable workers.
RailCorp denied drug takers were allowed back on the tracks by switching hire companies.
“Drug users are removed from their work, their service is terminated, and their authority to work certificate withdrawn,” human resources general manager Fran Simons said.
“RailCorp will not reissue a certificate to an individual who has failed to comply with standards, and without the certificate they cannot work for RailCorp.”
RailCorp protocol insists that workers are inducted into its zero-tolerance drugs policy at “kick-off” meetings.
“The contractor must attend a kick-off meeting … RailCorp’s representative must provide the initial OH&S induction to the contractor’s nominated key personnel”.
Ms Simons said there was no difference in the approach and enforcement of drugs policy between contract workers and RailCorp’s staff.”
Rail Tram and Bus Union secretary Nick Lewocki said he raised concerns of contract labour with CityRail this year.
“We know there is a huge labour shortage and we know there is more backpackers and other less stable employees working, ” he said.
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