The need to consider safety in every aspect of building, maintaining and operating Britain’s railway is clear and at the start of 2014 this focus on safe working began in earnest at the Derby Conference Centre.
On January 23, Carillion brought together more than 30 rail industry suppliers of different sizes and disciplines to demonstrate the common approaches and range of technology that will be keeping workers safe in the New Year.
The catalogue of products encompassed everything from gloves and goggles to a new wireless detection system currently being developed for the rail industry.
As always, the event provided an opportunity to have a play with some of the new safety devices entering the market and several that are already approved and in use.
Rentavent, with the help of an amplifier and decibel meter, demonstrated the benefits of its Soundex enclosures. Put simply, Soundex is a type of foam pad, the biggest of which forms a huge sound barrier designed to stick to exterior fences and absorb a large chunk of site noise. Ultimately, the aim is to help contractors foster friendlier relationships with the communities they work within.
CCTV systems supplier Inside Out Security and Time-lapse Production was promoting its growing time-lapse video service, playing video packages from a number of projects it has already documented. One of these was the careful deployment of a new tram bridge over Nottingham station as part of the NET Phase 2 project.
Safe by design
Dotted amongst the widgets and gizmos were four of the UK’s leading engineering consultancies – Arup, Atkins, Tata Steel and TPS Consult. Rather than manufacturing safety solutions, their role is to try and take risk out of a project entirely.
The ‘Safe by Design’ principle aims to make sure that those who draw up the plans consider the safety issues contractors could face. But it goes a step further. For a major station refurbishment like Birmingham New Street, it is about considering both the risks of keeping a station open during a major redevelopment and the safety issues that remain after completion for those maintaining the new station.
As well as trying to incorporate safety solutions into designs, the aim of the initiative is to improve communication so that contractors are made aware of the risks associated with designs and plan accordingly.
Good communication between project partners was not only the basis of one of the innovations on display by surveying equipment supplier SCCS but one of the common threads running through the exhibition. The EZiCAT i700 Locator uses GPS to map the location of services and provide a more accurate picture of the network of pipes and cables beneath a site.
As well as playing an important part in the early planning stage, communications systems also help ensure safety on site. DBD Communications demonstrated a series of innovations, including its new Apollo multi-user headset system which can connect three to four users as opposed to the two of its predecessor, Athena. Managing director David O’Connell said the company was currently experiencing a major growth period, having seen its rail business rapidly develop in the last 18 months.
Schweizer showcased its own range of track warning systems and a potential new entrant to the rail industry, Intellicone, demonstrated a new solution it is hoping to develop for the industry. Currently in use on the UK’s roads, Intellicone is a system of ordinary- looking traffic cones that use sensors to create a safe working zone, which if breached, sends out a warning.
However, not all safety devices are so complex. The role of temporary fencing and hoardings is fairly anonymous but without it there would be open access to live sites and a hazardous mingling of heavy equipment with the unwitting general public.
Blok N Mesh has supplied temporary hoardings to Crossrail and King’s Cross and its fencing is also in use on other rail sites around the country. Within sites fencing solutions are making other fairly common areas of risk safer.
MK Engineering Services supplies trailer barrier systems designed to reduce the significant number of preventative injuries that occur when people fall and jump from vehicles during unloading.
Another exhibitor, Skill Fast, has developed a new site limit barrier system, which has only recently received Network Rail approval, that replaces traditional fixing mechanisms with a clamp and allows much faster installation times – up to 200 metres of barrier can be erected in around 14 minutes.
Treating health like safety
Safety will remain on the agenda going into the spring, with the Rail Safety Summit on April 28 at the Royal College of Physicians, Regent’s Park, London. However, the event on January 23 pointed to growing trends in the discussion surrounding rail safety.
2014 looks to be the year occupational health issues demand more of the floor. Martin Thornton summed up this shift in focus as the need to begin ‘treating health like safety’ while checking visitors for high cholesterol and blood pressure at Carillion’s health check stand.
Just encouraging safe working practices is no longer enough, company’s have a duty of care to promote good health within the workforce. Partnerships such as the one between Network Rail and Carillion are beginning to deliver on this.
The rail engineer was also in attendance, handing out the latest issue but also meeting with many other companies, who perhaps did not get a mention above, such as Collis Engineering, Anderton Concrete, MegaTech Projects, and a great team from Selectequip.
We would also like to congratulate Carrilion on a very well organised and supported event, especially organiser James Steele, who never stopped looking after everyone. Well done.