Network Rail regulation and performance

14.05.18

NR found guilty of safety failure after signaller breaks neck

Network Rail has been found guilty of an offence under the Health and Safety Work Act following a level crossing accident.

Signaller, Douglas Caddell, suffered life-changing injuries after he was struck by a car as he tried to close the level crossing gate at East Farleigh, Kent, on 24 April 2015.

CCTV footage shows Caddell pushing the level crossing gate when it was hit by a vehicle, which caused it to bounce back, knocking the signaller to the ground and reportedly resulting in a broken neck.

Colleagues of Caddell told the court that there were frequent incidents of cars swerving across the rail tracks as signallers tried to close the gates and that Caddell had reported a different near miss with a different vehicle to the British Transport Police on the day of the incident.

Following the incident, an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) revealed that Network Rail’s assessment, consisted of a 30 minute census of traffic use and a conversation with a signaller, incorrectly assessed the risk of deliberate misuse of the crossing as being “significantly lower than average” and did not constitute a suitable or sufficient risk assessment.

The ORR also determined that the risk of a driver failing to see that the gates were being closed was “foreseeable” and that Network Rail had done “little or nothing to protect its employees” despite the clear risk.

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways, said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting the health and safety of passengers and railway staff and will not hesitate to take enforcement action or press prosecutions when necessary.

“Mr Caddell suffered life-changing injuries in this incident and the court’s verdict indicates how seriously the offence is viewed.”

He added: “We are pleased that Network Rail has taken safety measures, including installing warning lights, at East Farleigh and we would expect to see proper risk assessments made at the many similar level crossings across the country and necessary safety measures taken.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We accept this verdict and we have taken action to put in place suitable risk assessments.

“We also recognise that the incident which led to this investigation had a serious effect on the health and wellbeing of our signaller, who continues to be a valued member of our team. Separate to this case, we are already working to replace the manual crossing gates at East Farleigh with a modern system, with motorised barriers.”

Sentencing is scheduled for a later date.

 

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