Network Rail has launched a new taskforce to target track worker safety, backed with a £70m fund.
The news comes after the tragic deaths of two rail workers in South Wales, who were hit by a train. It is thought they may not have heard the train approaching because they were wearing ear defenders.
Concerns over track worker safety were also raised by the watchdog, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which issued two improvement notices to Network Rail over the issue.
The new taskforce will bring together multiple strands of work from across the Network Rail aimed at improving safety.
Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s group safety, technical and engineering director, said: 'We will make it safer to work on or near the railway than it is today. Everyone should expect to get home safe, every day, and while our track record has been good and improving, there are still too many close-calls and that will be addressed.'
Graph above lists all track-worker fatalities on Network Rail infrastructure
He added: 'We have been working with the ORR and our trade unions for many months to help us make working on the railway safer. Like our regulator, we want to see speedier progress.
'The tragic deaths in Wales last week are a stark reminder to us all that more needs to be done. We will rise to that challenge as losing more of our railway family is not something we can tolerate.'
The taskforce, headed by Mr Frobisher, will accelerate a range of safety programmes. These include:
- the ‘Near Miss Reduction Programme’
- Safer trackside working programme - designing and developing new protection and warning systems using digital technology
- Planning and delivering safe work programme – to improve the planning of track-side work, giving clarity of who’s in charge and ensuring good quality briefings are undertaken before work starts
- Sentinel improvements – a software platform that manages workers’ competencies enabling colleagues to know that people working are correctly trained. New apps and hand-held devices are being rolled out
- Fatigue improvement programme – better managing working time, travelling time and the impact of personal lifestyle on alertness and fitness for work
- Procuring for safety - to encourage and reward contractors for positive safety performance
- Medical standards project – targeting better health and fitness of our workforce
- Mental wellbeing and resilience project - to reduce stigma associated with mental health and provide the necessary tools and guidance
- Risk management – introducing better and more thorough work activity risk assessments
- Safety hour programme – a dedicated hour a week where all workers take part in a facilitated conversation about health and safety in an environment where everybody feels comfortable raising issues and concerns
The task force will be a partnership with all the key players in the industry including the ORR, trades unions and contractors.
Andrew Haines, chief executive said: 'I don’t want to see another track-worker death, which is why we are today creating a new team backed by a hefty budget to drive change and make working on the railway safer for our people. I can’t think of a more important task.'