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‘Invest in technology to manage rail industry’s high risks’

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Rail safety professionals have been encouraged to make the most of technology and data to manage the industry’s high risks.

George Bearfield, RSSB’s director for systems safety and health, said the industry is more high-risk than others because of close interaction with the public, exposure to the weather and ageing infrastructure, and urged the industry to develop new systems by taking advantage of technology.

He added: “We need to embrace this brave new world of data and make the most of the opportunities that it provides.”

George was one of the speakers at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) annual rail conference, held in Nottingham on November 9.

At the conference the subject of change, including Network Rail’s devolution of routes and new ways of working between major industry bodies, and how it could destabilise established measures of risk controls and introduce new hazards, was discussed.

Joining George was speaker Stuart Calvert, early contractor involvement lead for the Digital Railway Programme, who advocated the use of smart monitoring systems. He said these can provide huge data analysis of railways in real-time, meaning more scheduled maintenance and fewer risky situations for employees.

Providing an example, Stuart added that technology can be used to check for issues on signalling systems, reducing the need to do high-risk surveying work on busy lines.

After the conference IOSH’s chair of rail Keith Morey said: “As our industry changes, it is key that we don’t lose sight of worker protection. It must remain a priority.”

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