Drug & Alcohol Testing:

Q&A on Changes to Network Rail Panel

Published: 9th November 2022

At the beginning of September, Network Rail made changes to their drug screening panels.

We caught up with Dr Richard Evers, Research and Development Manager at SYNLAB Laboratory Services, to find out more about the changes that have been made and what this will mean for our customers within the rail industry.

Why does Network Rail have regulations?

The Transport & Works Act 1992 made it an offence to work on the railways while impaired through drink or drugs. Network Rail have implemented this through the use of the Sentinel scheme. All people authorised to work on the railways in safety critical roles are required to pass a pre-employment drugs test and Network Rail and its contractors are required to have random and For Cause testing policies.

What changes have Network Rail made?

The main changes that have been made to the Network Rail regulations are:

  • Propoxyphene will no longer be a drug required on the Network Rail drug screening panel
  • Tramadol and ketamine will be added
  • The cut-off level for cocaine testing is being decreased to 150ng/mL for screening and 100ng/mL for confirmation testing
  • RISQS (Rail Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme) Accredited collection agencies (such as ourselves) will be permitted to use on site Lateral Flow tests
  • The random testing rate is being increased to 20% of Sentinel card holders per year.

I recommend that companies who are affected by these changes notify their employees on the new standards as soon as possible.

When will these changes come into effect?

Network Rail published these new standards on 3rd September. Customers and collection services will have 6 months to comply with the new standard.

How will these changes impact organisations within the rail industry?

These changes will mean that companies will have 6 months to update their internal training and policy documents, to reflect the new drug screening panel which includes testing for ketamine and tramadol. We know that in some cases it can take some time to get policy changes approved through the correct consultation processes and we recommend that you start the process of policy review as soon as you are able.

The increase in the random testing rate will mean that smaller companies will be subject to random testing when they were not previously, and larger companies will have to test more staff.

Organisations are required to review their Drug & Alcohol policy at least every 3 years. This provides a good opportunity to initiate a review of your policy.

How have SYNLAB Laboratory Services responded to these changes?

At SYNLAB Laboratory Services the team and I have been aware and preparing of these upcoming changes for a number of months.

We are able to support customers who wish to remain on the existing profile until they have updated their internal training and policies, along with those who wish to immediately change to the updated Network Rail standards.  

We are also able to help your organisation navigate these changes through our awareness or collection training, policy reviews and by offering breathalyser or chain of custody collection kits.    

Our full qualified Collection Technicians will continue to provide a full end-to-end service whilst working towards the new regulations.

For more information on the services we provide and how we ensure we are Network Rail compliant, please contact our customer services team on 01873 856688 or by emailing [email protected].

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