RSSB’s third quarter safety performance update demonstrates an even trend, but the need for vigilance remains.
To make sure everyone gets home safe every day, you need to have eyes everywhere. For this, you need data, but you also need to be able to look down to the weaker signals evident in the daily control log, and you need to be able to check that what you’re doing is making a difference.
This is exactly why RSSB produced the Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway strategy and why it publishes a quarterly update to make sure members have a clear picture of what’s going on out there. The latest of these reports covers the third quarter of the 2021/22 fiscal year, essentially mid-September to mid-December.
The big headlines
First, there are still train accidents – potentially higher-risk ones, we call them. Four occurred in Quarter 3 (Q3): a buffer stop collision; a collision with a road vehicle at a level crossing; a collision between two trains; and one derailment. One of the precursors to a train accident is a signal passed at danger event, a SPAD. There were 62 in Q3, two more than the previous quarter. The associated risk has gone up too – but this doesn’t mean that the railway is suddenly a dangerous place, as the risk figure will have changed to reflect the SPAD that led to the collision at Salisbury Tunnel Junction on 31 October 2021.
As RAIB has revealed, the cause of the SPAD in the first place was wheelslide. RAIB will release its findings in due course, and RSSB – and the Train Accident Risk Group – will take the lessons forward in future thinking and future projects aimed at mitigating against the causes.
The number of recorded trespass incidents in Q3 was just under 2,700, which is down on the number reported in the same quarter last year (2,864). This follows a spike seen at the start of 2021/22 as we were phasing out of the second lockdown and while children were on their Easter holidays. Child-related trespass has continued to rise in line with all trespass-related events. Cases of children (and older) sitting over the edges of platforms are still being recorded, as are ill-advised games of ‘chicken’ involving running across the track between platforms.
The industry supported the important messages to prevent trespass and shared the new ‘You vs Train’ campaign via social media. A new campaign is also being planned to mitigate the increase in trespass over the holiday peaks. New resources to educate children from ages 3-16, to promote safe crossing use, have also been made available to schools via www.switchedonrailsafety.co.uk.
We are pleased to report that there were no workforce fatalities in Q3, pleased too that near misses have continued to fall. This reflects the efforts of Network Rail’s Safety Task Force (STF) to cut unassisted lookout working and use more line blockages, although a steady increase in line blockage incidents is now starting to be seen.
Health and wellbeing
Where safety data has always been comparatively plentiful, the same has not been the case for health and wellbeing. Thankfully, that looks set to change, with the launch of a new Health and Wellbeing Index (HWI). To streamline the data collection process, HWI components have also been integrated into the Industry Health & Wellbeing Performance Measurement System, an ongoing project to develop an industry-wide health and wellbeing monitoring dashboard.
The cross-industry Rail Mental Health Survey report was published on 2 November, with some insightful outcomes. The results showed that over 40% of rail workers are experiencing mental health problems. Rates of anxiety and PTSD were found to be higher among rail workers than the general population. In addition to the main report, companies with high numbers of responses have each received a highlights report for their company.
The Q3 report reflects a period of improvement, but it is a continuing journey. Here are just three things to look out for in the coming months:
Improving our Safety Management Intelligence System (SMIS). RSSB is currently working with industry to simplify SMIS to make it quicker and easier to record events and enable automatic data transfer with company systems.
Rebuilding the Safety Risk Model (SRM). The SRM provides estimates of the risk from rail operations and maintenance. It is currently being rebuilt to create a simpler more flexible structure which better meets requirements for localised risk assessment.
Developing the regional Precursor Indicator Model (PIM). The PIM provides a risk-weighted measure of failures, acts, and conditions that have potential to cause a train accident in different circumstances. Following engagement with 30 industry stakeholders, work is under way to update the calculations, produce regional breakdowns and build a dashboard to present the results.
Image credit: istockphoto.com / RSSB