Latest Rail News

16.02.15

NR told to improve safety planning procedures after fatal incident

Network Rail has been told to improve its safe systems of work procedures after the death of track worker John Wright, who was hit by a passenger train near Newark North Gate station on 22 January 2014.

Wright, who was 49 and from Doncaster, was acting as lookout as part of a team of three doing an ultrasonic inspection of two sets of points at Newark South Junction.

At the time of the accident, there were two track inspection staff at the site on the Up main line, the lookout and the operator of the ultrasonic test equipment. As the passenger train approached, it sounded its horn as a warning. Both the lookout and tester moved to an adjacent siding, which the controller of site safety (COSS) had reportedly nominated as the position of safety.

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But about 12 seconds later, as the train was crossing over from the Up main line to the Up/Down Passenger Loop, Wright – who had worked on the railway for around 30 years – moved from the position of safety and onto the second crossover. He was struck by the train, suffered serious injuries and died in hospital on 31 January 2014.

Also, contrary to the rule book, the COSS, who had around 36 years’ experience as a track worker, did not accompany the lookout and tester to the work site but remained in the work van – reportedly to check which test procedure they should be using. 

It is the COSS’s responsibility to check that it is safe to go back on the line and normally the COSS would ask the lookout to check whether the lines were clear and that it was safe for the team to resume work. In this case, the COSS was not present with the team and it is likely that the lookout decided he would check for trains without the permission of the COSS. 

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has informed RTM that it will be prosecuting the COSS for breaching health and safety law. A preliminary hearing is to be heard at Nottingham Crown Court in March.

Following an investigation, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has recommended that Network Rail improves its “work site safety discipline and vigilance”, especially for teams doing cyclical or repetitive tasks with which they are familiar.

In particular, the rail infrastructure owner has been told it should systematically brief and where appropriate and rebrief its COSS/Safe Work Leaders that they must be on site at all times, even when working with experienced staff, and that they must provide a full site-based safety briefing once the safe system of work has been verified.

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On top of this, Network Rail has been told to improve the implementation of its procedures for planning safe systems of work, so that the hierarchy of risk is used in the intended way.

A Network Rail spokesperson told RTM: “The death of John Wright was a tragedy which was felt deeply throughout Network Rail and which has led to significant changes to the way we manage the safety of everyone who works on the railway. We will consider the findings of the report and make any further safety measures that are recommended.”

A full report on the incident and subsequent RAIB investigation will feature in the Feb/March 2015 edition of RTM.

(All images courtesy of RAIB)

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

G   21/02/2015 at 20:20

Fault off coss because got to blame someone. Personally lookout should have argued the position of safety, clearly in this case the cess not 4ft!! Typical network rail thing they own the place

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