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Engineering for safety

Network Rail bosses are asking engineers participating in the National Electrification Programme (NEP) to help reduce accidents and make the railway safer.

Roger Dickinson (pictured) is regional director, Infrastructure Projects Southern and is the national lead within Infrastructure Projects for the coordination of work to deliver electrification and plant (E&P), including all new electrification schemes.

Speaking to RailStaff at a recent NEP conference, he commented: ‘Engineering is not just about driving efficiency, it’s very much also about creating a working environment where people can be safe.

‘We have safe by design, we have lots of processes and procedures to try to keep people safe and engineering I think plays a big part in that.

‘That is why my message to the electrification community is “Don’t just use the conference as an opportunity to network around innovation and engineering to drive cost benefits, it also has to be about thinking about how we make the whole process safer as well.”

‘Over the last few days, we’ve had two serious burn injuries. For example, a worker who was creating an isolation within a possession for people to carry out work went out to site and applied a strap to the third rail, effectively to make the third rail safe. During that activity the individual was very badly burnt; the third rail was live.

‘There were lots of protective mechanisms that should’ve prevented that happening – the live line testing, the earthing – before the individual actually got near applying the strap. We also supply gloves as a last line of defence and we need to understand how all of that failed and how the individual got so badly burnt.

‘In the second incident, at Basingstoke, a team of three individuals – a digger driver, a supervisor and an operative – were erecting a lighting column and during that activity the lighting column came into contact with the 11kV distribution network. The individual was working at the base of the lighting column to locate it and then the digger driver would lower the lighting column into position. During that activity, because the lamppost came into contact with the overhead line, the individual was very, very badly burnt and hospitalised.

‘Again, there are a lot of protective mechanisms that could’ve been used, should’ve been used, and we need to understand what happened. We need to understand why the individual was working in such a way that the lighting column was so close to the overhead line that it was effectively allowed to come into contact with such devastating results.’

Engineers who support the design and construction processes and can recognise these risks are therefore well placed to help to improve safe working practices for our construction and maintenance staff. And that’s what Roger was encouraging them to do.

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