Personal Track Safety

Personal Track Safety

A Personal Track Safety (PTS) Certificate is required before anybody is allowed to work within the boundary of Network Rail tracks in the UK. Any potential employee must undergo a medical and a drug and alcohol test before attending a "personal track safety" course.

The PTS Certificate lists competencies held by the person named on the card.- this may include
* Medical Certificate (expiry 10 years)
* PTS (AC or DC) (expiry 2 years)
* PICOP, COSS, IWA or others...

Deregulation in both the National Railway Service in the UK has meant that increasing numbers of subcontractors are being employed within the track environment. Contractors are often used for specific limited projects and are often from companies that have not previously been considered as having “railway pedigrees or culture”.

To work on or around the track involves certification for the individual employee of which there are several levels of competence and responsibility which are assessed.

The basic level for track access for Network Rail is the Personal Track Safety certificate (PTS) as defined by the railway safety standards GO/RT/8067. These levels of certification only assess the individual’s ability to work safely in the track environment. This means that the individual is able to respond and correctly react to circumstances which may arise in this potentially dangerous environment. Persons therefore should not have any condition or be taking any medication that may lead to sudden incapacity, loss of consciousness, dizziness, impairment of awareness, concentration, balance, coordination, or any significant limitation of mobility or impairment of hearing and vision. Persons with minor medical conditions (e.g. colour blind) may still be issued a PTS - though the card will have an indicator, a red triangle, to inform the Controller of Site Safety (COSS) to that person ailment. Similarly, those who have only recently got their PTS certificate will have have a green square on their card to indicate their 'new' status.

The medical assessment undertaken for PTS certification does not address the medical specificity for tasks that an individual may be expected to undertake in their normal duties when actually working on the track. i.e. operating machinery or responsibility for other staff requires a higher level of assessment for the job specification and procedures.

The medical assessment for these certificates must be undertaken by an accredited medical provider. In the case of PTS this is authorised by the “Link up procedure” under the authority of Network Rail.

Providers of this service are registered appropriately and regular audit is undertaken to ensure that they meet the quality control levels for the specific standards of performance and training needed to reliably undertake the medical assessments.

Since 2006 the standards for a PTS have been regulated by The Office of Rail Regulation

Basic Medical Assessment

Basic medical assessment for national rail PTS involves the following medical modalities and components.

1) A medical questionnaire. This is a general medical questionnaire to focus on any aspects of an individual’s medical history that may have any specific bearing on their ability to operate safely in the track environment. In particular questions that relate to the possibility of medication or medical conditions that may be responsible for sudden impairment, a lack of concentration or awareness or compromised mobility.

2) Audiometry (hearing test). This must be undertaken using equipment that conforms to the appropriate standards and guidelines specified with regular recorded calibration and maintenance. The subject should meet specific standards.

3) Vision testing. This is undertaken under controlled conditions to meet specified visual standards.

4) A clinical examination includes the following: a) Blood pressure estimation b) Physical examination, where appropriate, c) Urine testing, screening for some specific medical disorders.

Where an individual fails to meet the specific medical standards it is, sometimes possible with the written agreement and co-operation of management and Occupational Health to implement a system of formal “safe working practices”. This is so as not to discriminate unnecessarily against individuals with certain medical problems.

The object of the medical assessment is to ensure that employers meet their duty of care so that individuals working in this potentially dangerous environment are not subject to increased risk of harm to themselves or their colleagues, or in some cases members of the public, due to any foreseeable underlying medical condition..

The work environment is in continual flux, and changes in acceptable risk are therefore variable. For this reason a provider of these services must be up to date with the policies and procedures within the industry and flexible to meet the changing demands required with transparency.

Preserved Railways

Preserved railways often have their own volunteer PTS courses. Network Rail will not accept these PTS cards and often vice versa.


*Network Rail
*Office of Rail Regulation


[ PDF file Railway Safety Group] Further details on standards for PTS Medicals

External links

* [ National Competency Control Agency]
* [ Railway People] List of companies authorised to supply services to Network Rail
* [ Express Medicals Ltd] Further articles on Drug & Alcohol testing and medicals in the Rail Industry

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