Nine Irish Rail staff fail drugs and alcohol tests in two years to 2018

A signalman was dismissed after he was found to have cannabis in his system

Irish Rail: nine staff failed drugs and alcohol tests during 2017 and 2018. Photograph: Eric Luke

Irish Rail: nine staff failed drugs and alcohol tests during 2017 and 2018. Photograph: Eric Luke


Nine Irish Rail staff have failed drug and alcohol tests at work over the past two years, the company has confirmed.

Earlier this week, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that a decision by Irish Rail to dismiss a long serving signalman who had failed a drugs test to be fair.

The signalman, who was found to have cannabis in his system, was responsible every day for the safety of thousands of commuters and rail-users. He underwent the drugs test over suspicions that he had missed CCTV footage on his morning shift that showed a person had been inside the barriers at a level crossing as a train passed.

Irish Rail told the WRC that the gravity of the situation left it with little option other than to dismiss the worker.

The transport operator stated that the man’s actions “could have had extremely serious consequences”.

Irish Rail has now confirmed that over 2017 and 2018, a total of 622 tests for drugs and alcohol were carried out on Irish Rail staff. In 2018 Irish Rail employed almost 3800 people.

An Irish Rail spokeswoman stated that there were 332 tests last year, with five positive test results. In 2017 there were 290 tests and four staff members tested positive for drugs and alcohol.

Most tests are random but some are carried out after an incident and the spokeswoman said that of the nine positive tests, seven were for drugs and two were for alcohol. The drugs identified were cannabinoids and opiates.

The spokeswoman stated: “I’m not in a position to get into the outcome of their disciplinaries as the numbers are so small they would be easily identifiable.

“We operate a zero tolerance approach, when it comes to non-adherence with our drugs and alcohol policy. As a railway operator, safety is our number one priority.”

She added: “The policy is there to protect our customers and our staff and as you can see from the extremely low number of failures, it is very much embedded within our safety culture.”

Representatives from the National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu were not available to comment.