Even though Britain has one of the safest railways in Europe for both passengers and workers, carrying out regular maintenance or unexpected repairs still requires a lot of care and caution. Rail safety is important and it is easy to be complacent when performing everyday tasks or forget about fundamental responsibilities.
Thankfully, associations like the Office of Rail Regulation and the Personal Track Safety system provide advice and guidance on how to avoid accidents. However, there is always room to improve health and safety records in addition to employee accident awareness.
Properly train workers
Appropriate training relating to the correct use of equipment and common maintenance procedures is absolutely crucial if workers want to avoid accidents. From classroom-based education to on-the-job experience, a wide range of training programmes exists.
There are several hidden dangers to working on the rails, such as the increasing prevalence of electrified lines. But even obvious perils such as working at heights or operating heavy machinery require teaching and tuition.
While training courses for every employee could cost a fair amount of money, the benefits are priceless. Employees will be more productive, a lot happier in the working environment and most importantly, free from harm.
Use correct and quality equipment
Due to the unique nature of working on the rails, specialist equipment is usually required to carry out even the most routine tasks. But using equipment for something other than its intended purpose, operating tools in an incorrect manner or disregarding product quality can all cause accidents.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to purchase equipment and tools from a reputable supplier. Seeing as these companies are experts in the field, you can rest assured that products will be designed and developed exclusively for railway maintenance and repair.
Again, training might need to take place in order to guarantee workers are using equipment properly. Hydraulic and lifting equipment can be just as dangerous as an absence of safety harnesses or protective gear.
Deal with fatigue and stress
Due to the working hours and patterns of railway personnel, fatigue is a major issue. This can not only affect individual employees, but also other members of staff and even train passengers. Fatigue reduces an employee’s mental alertness, concentration, perception, judgement and memory as well as their physical performance. Consequently, track signals may be misread or messages could be misunderstood.
In order to address this issue, employers should develop and implement appropriate policies such as practical working patterns and shift rosters. Managers or supervisors should monitor levels of fatigue and educate their workforce as to the dangers of tiredness.
In addition to fatigue, stress is recognised by rail employers and trade unions as a curial health concern. Sickness absence and reduced productivity due to absenteeism is said to cost UK employers £26 billion a year. But the ORR has provided tips and guidance on what rail employers need to do.
Although there are an abundance of other health and safety considerations to bear in mind, such as regulation and certification, monitoring and reporting, investigating incidents, enforcement and occupational health, the aforementioned advice go a long way in helping to avoid accidents.