A track worker killed on the West Coast Main Line failed to respond to warning horns from an approaching train which ultimately struck him.
A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has concluded that a number of safety failings contributed to the Amco Giffen employee’s death.
Among its findings, the RAIB concludes that Ashurst had become “habituated to warnings from approaching trains” and therefore “did not look towards the approaching train on hearing its warning horn”.
The report adds: “The accident happened because the track worker, who was the person in charge of the work with responsibilities as Controller of Site Safety, was walking along a line that was open to traffic and did not look towards the approaching train on hearing its warning horn.
“He had gone back onto the track after handing back a blockage of the line, which had been taken to isolate the overhead line equipment, a task which, it was later appreciated, did not need to be done every day.
“It is not possible to determine with certainty why the track worker decided to walk on the track with no protection, but it is probable he had a purpose in mind and that he believed that no trains were due on the line he was walking along. There is also witness evidence suggesting that he had become habituated to warnings from approaching trains.”
RAIB’s investigation found several factors which possibly led to this situation.
The report adds: “The performance monitoring and appraisal arrangements for the track worker were inadequate and did not identify and address issues with compliance with rules, standards and procedures.
“The system of work in place for the site was inadequate for the work being undertaken and did not specify adequate arrangements to encourage compliance with safety rules, possibly affecting the behaviour of the track worker and others during the project. None of the assurance arrangements in place identified any non-compliant behaviours or the inadequate system of work.”
Consequently RAIB has made two recommendations to Amco Giffen relating to monitoring and developing the ongoing competence and performance of its staff, and ensuring compliance with its management procedures on new sites of work.
One recommendation has also been made to Network Rail to minimise the need for access to the track when taking isolations of electrical contact systems.
Issues around track worker safety have been brought to the fore in recent months following a number of incidents.
Network Rail had pledged to tackle worker safety head-on following the double fatality in Margam in July 2019.
Following the Margam tragedy, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines launched a 100-strong taskforce to improve the safety of track workers.
Despite this, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has repeatedly called for a “full and thorough” investigation into track worker safety.
In February, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said its members had warned Network Rail about the “alarming number of near misses and fatalities” that had happened over the past year.
Responding to the RAIB’s lastest report, Cortes added: “All our members, and their colleagues, do so much to keep our railways running smoothly day in day out they must be able to do this in a safe environment.
“Our union will never compromise on safety, and safety can never be taken for granted. It is simply not acceptable in this day and age that people go out to work and end up losing their lives or injured.”
Department of Civil Engineering https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-civil-engineering/