Alcohol and other drugs in Australian and New Zealand rail and associations with safety indicators

Janine Chapman, Ann Roche, Roger Nicholas, Lorelle Bowditch, Jillian Dorrian, Nora Balfe, Anjum Naweed

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Introduction and Aims: Rail is a safety critical industry with an ageing workforce. Rail driving is characterised by shiftwork, high stress and performance demands, sedentariness and elevated risk of musculoskeletal disorders and cardiovascular disease. However, no data exists on the patterns or profiles of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use in this cohort, or how they may correspond with safety indicators. This paper addresses this gap.

    Design and Methods: Rail drivers across Australia and New Zealand (N=751) completed an anonymous survey assessing AOD use and workplace culture, and safety‐related items including involvement in operational incidents. Analyses were conducted to determine the extent and nature of AOD by worker profile, and associations with safety outcomes.

    Results: Forty‐eight percent of the sample scored positive on Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test‐Consumption, with no difference by age. Twenty‐three percent of drivers reported that AOD negatively impacts their driving on a day‐to‐day basis. Freight drivers were more likely than passenger drivers to drink at risky levels; use prescribed medication, and be aware of co‐workers affected by hangover or other drugs (all P <0.05). Operational incidents and difficulty remembering signals were associated with a positive CAGE score and lifetime cannabis use (P <0.05).

    Discussions and Conclusions: This is the first study to investigate AOD and safety in Australian and New Zealand rail with important implications for workplace policy. High levels of alcohol use are of concern. AOD use in freight rail modes warrant attention, particularly, as these drivers work for long periods in isolated environments. Future work into AOD‐related performance impairment and accessible workplace supports is required.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDrug and Alcohol Review
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019
    EventAustralasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs 2019 - Hobart, Australia
    Duration: 10 Nov 201913 Nov 2019


    ConferenceAustralasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs 2019
    Abbreviated titleAPSAD 2019
    Internet address


    • Alcohol and drugs
    • Rail
    • Safety
    • workforce


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