Network Rail Drug & Alcohol Standard Working Group

Our Ref: HSR/1/1
Head Office Circular: NP/196/21
4th June 2021
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


Network Rail’s Chief Medical and Wellbeing Officer wrote to me following an internal audit and best practice benchmarking exercise on Network Rail’s Drug and Alcohol standards NR/L1/OHS/051 and NR/L2/OHS/00120. Further to this review, he informed me that the company would update our drug testing panel by adding two additional substances.

He further wrote to me noting that historically the company had tested 5% of all safety critical employees as part of its random drug and alcohol testing programme. However, its current standard allowed for the flexibility of the testing percentage to be amended dependant on risk and stated that 5% would be a minimum.

Following an internal audit and external benchmarking conducted by AECOM, he informed me that it was imperative that Network Rail increased its testing percentage to 20% of employee headcount to ensure it robustly mitigates the risk associated with misuse of drugs and or alcohol. This change would commence in a phased approach and would initially be for safety critical employees only and would equate to approximately 9,000 tests conducted per annum; this figure would be based on the annual organisation headcount and may marginally fluctuate.

The percentage of employees to be tested would then be reviewed at 6 months intervals. If upon review the failure rate was deemed to be above an acceptable level, the company would look to increase testing in a 5% increment. If the failure rate was below the identified level for two consecutive 6-month periods it would reduce by 5%. Testing however would not fall below the new baseline of 20%.

Your National Executive Committee, at its meeting on 3rd June, noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety Sub-committee:

We note the correspondence on file from Network Rail’s Chief Medical and Wellbeing Officer and the further correspondence received which seeks to raise the minimum number of staff subjected unannounced testing to 20% of the staff population per year with the threat that this could rise further.

The General Secretary is instructed to write to Network Rail clarifying the two substances in question and subsequently agreeing to their inclusion or otherwise depending on the answer provided.

Additionally, the GS is to register our strong objections to the imposition of a new Drug & Alcohol regime without consultation and demand that a meeting of the joint national councils is convened to discuss the issues and demand that no changes are implemented without proper consultation.

Branches and Regional Councils to be informed.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions. Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary