Rail

Under the Transport & Work Act 1992, people employed in safety critical roles or who are PTS (Personal Track Safety) card holders within the UK rail industry must be free from the effects of alcohol or drugs whilst at work.

To adhere to this UK rail providers perform drug and alcohol testing in line with their company policies, on their employees, contractors and other visitors to site.

If your organisation works with a UK rail provider, your employees may also be subject to testing. As an employer, you may have to demonstrate that your organisation operates a drug and alcohol policy. For more information on how we can assist you in complying with this click here.

There are defined drug and alcohol profiles / limits across Network Rail and London Underground, as outlined in more detail below. Other organisations within the UK rail industry define their own testing procedures and protocols.

Network Rail and London Underground

If you work for either Network Rail or London Underground as an employee or subcontractor you must produce a negative pre-employment drug and alcohol test before you can begin work. There are heavy penalties if an employee produces a positive drugs and alcohol test. This can include the employee:

  • Having their PTS card revoked.
  • Having their sentinel card revoked.
  • Facing a ban from working in any role requiring a PTS / Sentinel card for up to 5 years.

Alongside this, random and For Cause testing is also performed.

Know your limits!

Alcohol

An electronic legally defensible breathalyser is used to test breath samples for alcohol. The Railway Group Standard GE/RT8070 defines a positive alcohol result as being over the following equivalent limits:

  • 29mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • 13μg of alcohol per 100ml of breath

Drugs of Abuse

To test for drugs of abuse, a urine sample is collected and sent into a RISQS (Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme) approved laboratory. In the laboratory the samples are screened against the following drug profile:

Network Rail London Underground
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamines (MDMA)
  • Opiates
  • Propoxyphene
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamines (MDMA)
  • Opiates
  • Propoxyphene

If the preliminary screen is non-negative, in that something has reacted with the test, we cannot yet confirm what caused the test to produce that result. The next step is confirmation analysis, which allows us to differentiate between illicit drugs, prescription medication, over the counter medications and other metabolites within the sample.

The final results are reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO), before they are reported. The MRO is a trained professional, working in the Occupational Health sector, who is responsible for reviewing and evaluating positive results, and their possible explanations.

Uploading Results to Sentinel

To check that a pre-employment test has taken place, all results are uploaded to Sentinel, a safety system used across the rail industry. Once the results have been uploaded, it issues employees who have ‘passed’ the drug and alcohol test with a permit to work across the rail infrastructure.

If you are sponsoring an employee to have a drug and alcohol test in order to provide services to the rail industry, prior to the test taking place, it’s your responsibility as the sponsor to ensure that the employee being tested has a profile within Sentinel that results can be uploaded against.

Once the drug and alcohol test has been completed, the organisation who collected the sample is responsible for uploading the drug and alcohol testing results to Sentinel.

RISQS Approved

SYNLAB’s laboratory in Abergavenny is RISQS approved, under the Achilles Rail Industry Supplier Scheme, with supplier number 093658. Our RISQS approval, demonstrates our compliance with the specifications and standards of the UK rail industry’s drug and alcohol testing requirements.