HomeHSEQRound-up: The Rail Safety Summit 2017

Round-up: The Rail Safety Summit 2017

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The offices of solicitors Eversheds Sutherland near St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of London was the venue this year. It was my pleasure to introduce Rail Minister Paul Maynard MP – more correctly described as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rail, Accessibility and HS2.

He is MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys and has a degree in history from Oxford as well as having been educated at St Ambrose College Altrincham in Cheshire.

Rail Minister’s concerns

Understandably, he referred to fatigue as the late night Brexit Bill vote had caused him to lose sleep! He said we have the safest railway in Europe and welcomed the RSSB’s clarification of the Rule Book requirements for despatching trains. He highlighted areas of concern about the platform edge, bank slips and the attitudes and culture of some workers. He repeated Network Rail’s mantra about staff getting home safely.

Referring to the Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) annual report, he stressed the importance of heritage railways and the need for improvements to be made due to the worrying number of incidents involving their operations. Acknowledging that railway suicides are not within anyone’s direct control, he told us that one in 20 of the 200 or more suicides a year take place on the railway. Franchising agreements now include provisions for vulnerable people and suicides.

Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto.
Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto.

Five billion pounds a year spending

Our second keynote speaker was Francis Paonessa, managing director of Infrastructure Projects, Network Rail. A chartered engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, with a degree in aeronautical engineering from Manchester, his previous employment has included work as a mechanical designer.

His organisation employs 4,300 people, 3,000 suppliers and spends £130 million in an average week. Crossrail, Thameslink and London Bridge were all mentioned. Although his organisation has seen a reduction in lost-time accidents, people are still suffering life-changing injuries. He commented on the improvement in safety culture immediately following a trench collapse incident, adding that road traffic accidents are now the largest cause of injuries.

He expects digital railway train control systems to provide risk reducing opportunities and drones will soon be in use for surveying sites (due to their improving accuracy). Infrastructure Projects use 40,000 possessions each year and overrun delay minutes have halved over the last two years. He was pleased in August when, during their largest-ever job, staff stopped the job after deeming it to be unsafe. He said this received the right degree of empowerment. Answering a delegate’s question, he commented that two thirds of their possessions are for less than eight hours, and on the current 14 hours door-to-door rule for workers.

Tolerability of Risk – fish and lettuce

Nicola Uijen is a chartered safety professional with over 20 years rail experience, now working for Costain Rail. Following work with Network Rail and automatic track warning systems, she spent time with Costain Highways before returning to rail. She is deputy chair of the Safety Leadership Group and has worked with the RSSB. She highlighted the increase rail has experienced in significant injury accidents, before referring to risk tolerability where she compared rail to North Sea fishing and the risk from eating bagged lettuce! She explained Costain’s decision to change their focus from ‘zero accidents’ to ‘halving harm’. She also commented on the adoption of a positive approach to safety, with the use of PPE always being the last resort.

“Don’t chase the glitter ball”

She described events on Crossrail leading up to the site visit by Her Majesty the Queen. Towards the end of 2015, a spate of non-conformances were put down to ‘a bad day before Christmas’. Then three serious RIDDOR accidents happened in January in the week before the Royal Visit.

For the visit, there was no written Safe System of Work and no briefing was given. Back to basics was the aim; forget time and performance just get it right. This continued afterwards with supervisors starting each task on site. Subsequently communications improved, the result is that there hasn’t been a RIDDOR since January last year. She said time constraints are a danger. Short possessions increase risks, safety should be a valued necessity rather than a priority and in matters of safety ‘Don’t chase the glitter ball’.

Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto.
Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto.

Repeated mistakes, pockets of excellence and mental health

Ian Prosser is Chief Inspector of Railways for the ORR, as well as being board member. He is an engineer with a chemical engineering first degree from Imperial College London and a Masters from Cambridge. He worked in chemical, pharmaceutical and automotive industries before coming to rail.

He stressed the importance of ORR’s actions being proportionate and consistent. Good safety he opined is good business, but he asked why it is that the industry continues to make the same mistakes? He added that whilst there are now ‘pockets of excellence’ in the industry, there are still many who may be described as merely ‘middle of the road’. Consequently enforcement still has to be used.

Referring to target zero, he suggested that everyone should now strive to achieve a year without a single improvement notice. Safety by design without gold plating was a second theme of his presentation.

He stressed the importance of talking to people face to face and his concerns over the increasing number of assaults on rail staff . He said that communication to ground level needs to improve. Early next year, he expects Network Rail’s chief executive to launch a safety campaign involving the Samaritans organisation focussing on mental health awareness.

Psychological factors in developing a safety culture

Mandy Geal is the founder of Learning Partners. She aims to emphasise the ‘personal’ aspect of personal safety. She stressed the psychological factors that affect behaviours. People’s reactions when threatened and concerns for their own safety may include the wish to fight or take flight; become aggressive, freeze, or take action to avoid the situation.

She went on to explain how removing fears and being rewarded affects motivation and conscious awareness. Workforce culture and the need for individual engagement and involvement, as well as developing a balanced view of risk and safety, should always be taken into account.

A psychological trust in safety matters and the performance of colleagues plus the open admission of mistakes and the outlawing of a culture of blame are all needed for a good safety performance.

Listening and being seen

Emma Head was appointed corporate safety director HS2 in August 2015, having previously been director of safety strategy at Network Rail. Safety culture and responsibility were her themes.

She spoke of the importance of caring for the workforce, designing for safety, construction, operations and maintenance. Listening to people, being seen and approachable were all necessary if confidence and a good safety culture is to be achieved. HS2 has started from first principles. Emma said they had produced projections based on HS1’s construction.

They found that if they didn’t do anything differently, HS2 would suffer three fatalities and 713 non-fatal accidents. Their holistic health strategy aims to ‘put safety at the heart of all they do’; and prevention rather than mitigation is the aim.

A Smart T-COD

Lex Van der Poel is chief executive officer of Dual Inventive and an adviser to the European Committee for Railway Standardisation.

His interest in the Internet of Things resulted in the development of the MTinfo 3000 cloud platform. ZKL 3000 is the name given to their remotely activated/controlled track circuit operating device which has Network Rail approval at SIL 4 level. It can be used as a semi- permanent installation in the four- foot and or may be installed at any convenient time before a single or series of possessions. It can be activated by a smart phone.

In Amsterdam they have been fitted to 205 sets of points. The speaker described their use to the growing interest of all.

Avoiding 157 annual close calls!

David Underwood a civil engineer project manager Track Renewals with Network Rail had previous experience with London Underground. He described the use they have made of the ZKL 3000 system in West Yorkshire. Their organisation has two high output track relaying systems and five ballast cleaning ones. The former undertake some 70 per cent of the track renewals carried out by Network Rail each year. For track renewals on average there are 12 line blockages taken every night with for ballast cleaning.

During 2016/17, the placing or misplacing of possession protection resulted in 157 close calls. The use of ZKL 3000 has used a dispensation from the putting out of detonators etc, resulting in fewer people at risk on track and considerable time

Further developments currently being trialled include an in cab ‘flexible train arrival point’ system and personal warning systems together with remote temporary speed restriction boards. The question and answer session included the comment from the ORR that the current CP6 submission should include ZKL 3000 system introduction.

Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto for Rail Media @rail_media

Freight wagon maintenance

James Collinson is the managing director of the Network Certification Body (NCB) and a chartered mechanical engineer. His focus was on freight wagon maintenance and loading. He began by explaining the task operators faced following rail privatisation.

Over 3,000 vehicles both two axle, with bogies and specialist types were privatised to the freight operating companies but without clear responsibilities for their maintenance. The problems were recognised by the ORR and after twenty years in CP5 by a legislation change identifying capability and responsibility.

Asymmetric loading data analysis from 183,000 wagon recordings revealed only 380 were outside the set limits. Further condition monitoring at specific places is being carried out using a vehicle identity recognition system.

Safety incident legal expectations

Tim Hill, partner of Eversheds Sutherland is a solicitor advocate, specialising in criminal regulatory matters including fatalities,  corporate manslaughter and health and safety.

He was involved in the Ladbroke Grove Inquiry and more recently on industrial relations issues of Driver Only Operation. Delegates were reminded of the new guidelines that have been in place since 1 February last year in respect of corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences.

Sentencing guidelines take into account continuous improvement and ALARP initiatives but company turnover (especially £50 million or more) now influences fine levels, although one third discounts are awarded for early guilty pleas.

Investigation techniques

Simon French is the Chief Inspector of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Railway risk and its management are central to their investigations. He spoke of his concern at the number of trackworker accidents in particular. He said that their investigations look for gaps in safety defences and their purpose is to capture lessons learnt and recommend improvements.

Amongst current concerns he cited Cardiff where an investigation had uncovered rostering of 10 successive 12-hour shifts without a day off; and on South Devon Railway a toilet available for travellers with a large hole to the track in its floor – he showed the picture with the toilet roll still in place. Drilling down to ‘shop floor’ level is their aim, as is the uncovering of hidden relationships. He concluded by referring to their class investigation into workers on track whilst trains run, and said that he was looking forward to the end of red zone working.

Cost, learning and incidents

Simon Grundy, innovation manager at Amey, has worked in the rail industry for just two years. Acknowledging the zero fatalities achievement of 2015/16, he reminded everyone of the 6,597 workforce injuries and 157 life-changing injuries that occurred at that time. He spoke with passion about the electrification project worker who was killed when a driver using a mobile phone crossed the central reservation and collided with him head on.

He stressed the importance of self-accountability, correct behaviours and risk perception as well as the danger of complacency. Incidents he said were not inevitable. He described the use of task rehearsals, site familiarisation and operational briefings, before advocating the use of virtual reality equipment to simulate near misses, and drones to assist with inspections.

Stressful situations, a new way – Havening
Mark Wingfield from Max Training spoke about the work he has done to help individuals suffering trauma following train assaults. He described the process of Havening which can be effective in reducing fears and stresses following incidents. It is a psycho-physical process which he explained uses delta waves in the brain.

In a first for the Rail Safety Summit, he demonstrated the technique to all present by encouraging the audience to stimulate delta waves by crossing arms and stroking heads and sides of chins before almost rubbing noses with the delegate sitting alongside. Participation levels were high.

Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto.
Credit: HighVizMedia and @LaurentCphoto.

Improving track safety without lineside signals

This was a joint presentation from Pat McFadden of Network Rail and Tom Lee Director of Standards at the Rail Safety and Standards Board. They explained that the Digital Railway incorporates rail traffic management, automatic train operation, telecommunications, European Train Control Systems and connected driver advisory

The overall aim is to reduce cost, reduce carbon emissions and increase capacity. Whilst the individual elements referred to are known, the collaboration between the two organisations aims to knot the elements together so as to achieve maximum benefit.

Diesel fumes, ballast dust and other risks
The final speaker of the day was Matt Coldwell an occupational hygienist with the Health and Safety Laboratory who spoke of managing health for the future. He began by telling us that currently 1.3 million people are suffering from work-related illness. He said that this was being addressed by the ORR’s 2014/19 Occupational Health Programme.

His involvement covers mental health, lifestyle choices and health risks. He gave illustrated rail site examples including diesel fumes, ballast handling and dust. He acknowledged RSSB’s initiatives which have led to exposure controls including the use of water suppression to reduce ballast dust.

He criticised inadequate training and risk assessments, the lack of occupational health expertise and a general over-reliance on the use of PPE.

Thank you all

I had the pleasure of thanking both our hosts at Eversheds Sutherland and the speakers who had ably answered delegates’ questions throughout the day when I drew the proceedings to a close. I concluded by offering a huge thank you to Tom O’Connor and all the Rail Media Team for making the arrangements, including the excellent buffet-style lunch, and ensuring that the day ran smoothly.

Thank you to this year’s sponsors: Amey, Bolle Safety, OnTrac, Rail Safety Solutions, RSSB and Stobart Rail.

This article was written by Colin Wheeler.

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