Railway safety and crime

11.07.19

RAIB calls for review of zero-hours contracts for rail workers

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) have released their findings into the fatal accident between London Victoria and Three Bridge in November 2018.

The investigation found track worker was hit by a train in the earlier hours of the morning after they had placed equipment on the track.

The report criticises Network Rail for their use of zero-hours contracts, which they claim contributes to fatigue and a higher risk of accidents.

Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents said: “This sad accident was the first in more than four years involving the death of a track worker who was struck by a train.

“When workers are employed on a casual basis on zero hours contracts, there can be great pressure for them to try and juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“The possible effects of such patterns of employment on fatigue and fitness for work are significant.

“We are therefore recommending that the railway industry reviews the way it manages the use of staff on zero hours contracts, to minimise the risk associated with this pattern of work.

The comments follow another tragic incident in Wales last week.

rail workers 2 (Danny Lawson, PA Images)

Mr French also called for an overhaul of safety systems on the UK’s rail network.

He added: “Modern technology means that there are many ways in which the position of trains can be established, and warnings given to drivers and to track workers, if a train movement goes beyond a safe limit.

“I believe that the industry should continue to explore ways of eliminating the need for Victorian methods of protection on the twenty-first century railway.”

Network Rail announced the launch of a safety task force yesterday, pledging to find ways of improving health and safety on the railways.

Responding to the findings in the report, Sam Chessex, acting route manager for Network Rail in the South East, said: “The incident at Stoats Nest was a terrible tragedy involving a member of the railway family.

“Network Rail has implemented a number of initiatives over recent years to help frontline staff better manage fatigue risk, and just yesterday launched a track worker safety task force to deliver speedier progress in improving railway safety.

“Network Rail does not use zero-hour contracts, and our code of conduct sets out what we expect from suppliers who do use them to ensure contractor safety. As a result of this incident we are reviewing our standards and our supplier practices to ensure they are focused on contractor safety.

“Our thoughts will always remain with the friends and family of our colleague who lost his life.”

(Pictures: Gareth Fuller/Danny Lawson/PA Images)

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