A Monash University report is putting The National Transport Commission (NTC) to shame over the latter’s push to remove working hour caps for NSW train drivers.
The NTC is moving toward eliminating the standard 12-hour shift maximum to be replaced by a Rail Operator-designed work and break plan.
However, the Monash report commissioned by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), has suggested that even the 12-hour cap currently in place is detrimental to the safety of both drivers and those on public transport. The report’s author, Shantha Rajaratnam, suggests that working for a longer than eight consecutive hours can place all involved at risk.
“After eight hours of exposure to a particular task during a shift … the risk of an accident or an injury substantially increases,” says Rajaratnam. “A shift longer than 12 hours would not provide adequate opportunity for restorative sleep before another shift start.”
Original work caps in NSW were introduced following two major rail disasters in the state in 1999 and 2003. RBTU national secretary Bob Nanva states that the idea of abolishing such important and poignant caps makes a ‘mockery’ of the entire system.
“This research paper blows a massive hole in the NTC’s case for removing shift limits, finding such a move would be potentially dangerous,” says Nanva. “They make a mockery of the whole concept of a safety regulator.”
International working standards are also being pulled into the debate, with the report pointing to several international governments including US, European Union, Canada and Britain who regulate rail workers hours to a high standard. With rail high on the national governmental agenda, this issue is expected to only heat up further.