KiwiRail introduces random drug tests

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 13:59 23/05/2013

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Kiwirail is introducing random drug tests for all staff as a report reveals a track worker involved in a near miss had cannabis in his system.

Two workers repairing the tracks narrowly escaped being hit by commuter train on August 25, 2011 after a colleague responsible for their safety said the track was clear without looking.

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission report found the southbound train was travelling around a bend at 60kmh between Paekakariki and North Junction when the driver saw the two men 90 metres ahead repairing the track.

The driver slammed on the emergency brakes, blew his whistle, and the pair managed to leap clear just in time, escaping injury.

The track work supervisor had earlier told the train driver the track was cleared on the assurances of the worker responsible his colleagues’ safety.

At the time however, the worker could not see his colleagues working on the track.

Later tests revealed the worker had cannabis in his system at the time and was a regular user of the drug.

In its report, the commission criticised the worker’s lack of training and the group’s safety communication plan which, on the day, was ‘‘inherently flawed’’.

It said KiwiRail’s systems for ensuring competent monitoring of tracks were ‘‘incomplete’’ and did not ensure staff were adequately qualified for their assigned tasks.

It recommended a ‘‘zero tolerance’’ approach to drugs and alcohol use among workers involved in safety-critical tasks and improvement to KiwiRail’s safety systems.

Responding to the report, Kiwirail chief executive Jim Quinn said since early April the state-owned rail company has been introducing random drug and alcohol testing for all employees.

"Everybody is subject to it, even I could be," he said.

Quinn said the timing was a coincidence and the new policy was not directly related to the incident. 

"It's about hardening up our drug and alcohol policy"

Kiwirail has also improved its safety training systems, another area which was criticised in the report, he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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