Mode Rail
Reference No. RR20140004
Date reported 07 March 2014
Concern title Work being completed on safety critical components by unqualified contractors
Concern summary

The concern related to the maintenance and repair of safety critical components being conducted by contractors who were not appropriately qualified to carry out the work.

Industry / Operation affected Rail: Freight
Concern subject type Rail: Rolling stock maintenance

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern regarding the maintenance and repair being conducted on the operator’s locomotives.

A subcontractor is engaged to conduct maintenance and repair on the locomotives and employs diesel fitters and apprentices.

The reporter advised that the maintenance is being conducted on safety critical systems including:

  • Airbrake system
  • Vigilance control system
  • Replacing brake rigging and brake block and adjustment

The reporter also advised that employees of the contractor do not have the specialised qualifications or knowledge to perform this work.

Reporter comment: These locomotives have been allowed onto the network having work done on safety critical air brake systems without a competent qualified fitter signing off on work done.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

We use competent and qualified staff to undertake work on our locomotives and a record of their qualifications is maintained.

This complaint is one of a number of vexatious complaints and we are again concerned that the ATSB is not applying the appropriate due diligence and rigour as required under the regulations.

On a specific occasion, a locomotive driver at one of our depots asked a contractor fitter if he was qualified to undertake a particular task. The fitter concerned advised that he was not formally trained in the particular task and that the locomotive was being relocated to our major maintenance facility, where there would be appropriately trained staff to undertake the required work. This person then raised the concern with our operational staff and was advised similarly.

We have and will into the future continuously undertake training to improve the competence of our staff. Similarly our contractors use competent and qualified fitters.

Additional training is undertaken with the assistance of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM's). In any maintenance facility, it is not uncommon for staff to be at various skill levels, such as apprentices, staff who are yet to complete specialised training and staff who have additional skills to those required for common tasks, but can be drawn on where necessary. The depot in question is a minor maintenance facility and does not have the staff to complete all tasks, particularly if heavier maintenance is required.

At no time was work undertaken by our contract staff at this base for which they were not competent.

Operator's response (Operator 2)

We wish to dispute the information in this report and respond as follows.

We confirm that we are engaged as a subcontractor to the operator to conduct maintenance and repairs on the locomotives. We also confirm we conduct maintenance on the following systems of the locomotives:

  • Airbrake system
  • Vigilance control system
  • Replacing brake rigging and brake block and adjustment

We dispute the report that our employees do not have the specialised qualifications or knowledge to perform this work.

Our maintenance services on the locomotives are performed by competent mechanics/technicians who are trade qualified, mainly as heavy vehicle diesel mechanics - which include TAFE qualifications in brake systems.

Further, we have and will continue to arrange for our employees to undertake additional training eg. brake training with the brake manufacturer and training in the Vigilance control system.

Please also note our technicians are supported by:

  1. a Locomotive Technical Specialist;
  2. our Market Development Manager - Rail; and
  3. Australia based technical rail experts from the OEM's engineering team.

We also advise that in accordance with our procedures, service work is signed off by a competent technician.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

On Friday the 4 April 2014, the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) undertook a Compliance Inspection at the operator's site in relation to the issue of 'rail safety worker competence', namely with a focus on the competency of rolling stock maintenance personnel.

On Friday the 4 April 2014, the ONRSR also conducted an inspection at the contractor's site in regard to the above mentioned issue.

During the Compliance Inspection, we identified varying deficiencies regarding the issue of rolling stock maintenance personnel and their required competencies. At the completion of the compliance inspection, we raised four (4) non-conformances with the operator/s. All of the non-conformances raised related to the issue of 'rail safety worker competence'. Further details regarding the non-conformances are as follows;

  • The operator could not demonstrate that it has complied with s117 of the Rail Safety National Law in respect to rail safety workers contracted to perform rolling stock maintenance on their behalf.
  • The operator could not demonstrate that it has recorded competency records in compliance with the prescribed requirements for contracted rail safety workers undertaking rolling stock on their behalf.

In addition to the initial inspections, ONRSR representatives were invited by the mentioned operator/s to attend a presentation regarding the working relationship between themselves and the contractor. The presentation was insightful in regard to the contractor’s operations. The presentation also provided a platform to provide a brief oversight to the contractor in relation to the operator's 'Safety Management System' and their legislative requirements as a 'contractor'.

Further to the presentation, conversations ensued with the operator/s in regard to the non-conformances raised during the inspections. As a result of the conversations with the operator/s, the non-conformances issued remained in effect.

On Friday 13 June 2014, the ONRSR received the following response from the operator/s in regard to the non-conformances that were raised:

The contractor is currently in the process of mapping all their current maintenance tasks against the OEM supplied Maintenance Task Sheet for the locomotive, in effect a gap analysis to ensure there the current process is robust, this will then provide both the operator and the contractor with a solid foundation with which we will then complete a training needs analysis, this is well underway and being documented, we expect to have the Gap Analysis completed by the middle of July 2014. Once completed a training needs analysis will be conducted which we believe will assist us in confirming the current competency levels of our maintenance staff and identify any possible areas for improvement. This will further assist us in ensuring that the competencies of maintenance staff is correctly recorded. This process will in effect, assist us in addressing the opportunity for improvement in ‘Rail Safety officers noted a lack of knowledge and understanding held by [the contractor] surrounding [the operator's] Safety Management System’. We anticipate having this process completed by the week ending 5th December 2014.

The ONRSR intends on closely monitoring the implementation of the corrective action plan provided by the operator.


Last update 15 May 2015