Wednesday 23 November 2022

UIC Safety Platform Webinar on “Safety at Work: Protecting Rail Workers from Trains” held at UIC HQ

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On 16 November, the UIC Safety Platform organised its first webinar on “Safety at Work: Protecting Rail Workers from Trains” at UIC HQ in Paris, with around 100 attendees from 28 countries around the world gathering to discuss the safety challenges that the railway industry is currently facing.

Ali Chegini, Chair of the UIC Safety Platform and Director of Systems Safety and Health at RSSB, opened the webinar by saying that:

Health and safety in the railway sector and workforce, including subcontracting, is extremely important and our number one priority as health and safety professionals and also as UIC members. Initiatives to promote better health, safety & wellbeing at work are not only legal and ethical obligations, but also practical as they are self-funding and should, over time, help reduce the industry’s costs.

The webinar focused on how UIC members strive to improve health and safety management for all railway workers, taking some European case studies as examples:

  • Bart Hoogcarspel, Data analyst, Safety department, Policy and data (ProRail) discussed the 1995 Netherlands track worker fatalities at Mook and presented how the NVW-2005 standards were implemented. Evaluations of NVW-2005 in 2015 showed that there were no fatalities from 2007 to 2014 and that injuries decreased from 2002 to 2014. No casualties have been recorded since 2018 after the three preceding years saw fatal accidents. However, there are still challenges for track workers, as some only work part-time for the railways, they don’t always have a common language and work across several countries, and may be affected by global problems. Hoogcarspel also showed that using double tracks instead of a single work track with the other still in service has a positive effect on near accidents.
    In the second part of his presentation, Hoogcarspel showed results from the UIC safety database for 21 countries. Personnel hit by trains reduced by 30% in the 10 years between 2010 and 2019. Unfortunately, during COVID in 2020 and 2021 numbers went up by 10% which is incredibly concerning. The data also show that major improvements were made in shunting operations but not as much in infrastructure works.
  • Maria Hedqvist, Chair of the UIC Occupational Health and Safety Group (OHSG), and Market and Planning, Transport Quality, Railway Safety Manager at Trafikverket, shared “Contractor safety: client and contractor perspectives”. Hedqvist spoke about UIC guidance on improving health and safety when working with contractors on the railways. She highlighted some of the findings, and especially good practices, from this guidance through a 6-stage model: contractor selection, contract preparation, contract awarding, familiarisation, supervision, and rating.
  • Allan Spence (former Director of Regulator Liaison) and Nick Millington (Safety Taskforce Director) at Network Rail, jointly presented “Safer railway maintenance”. In their presentation, Spence and Millington focused on reducing work where the only form of protection was a lookout warning (which was easily overlooked and therefore subject to human error). They shared some of the challenges that the company’s Safety Task Force has faced while transforming the way maintenance work is done on Britain’s main railways in relation to the above problem. Solutions include having fewer tasks carried out manually by using intelligent infrastructure, and using risk-based-maintenance, data cleansing and improved ‘clustering’ of work. They stressed the importance of new technologies and the need to accelerate the development of more extensive "intelligent infrastructure”. They shared numerous examples how new technologies help to reduce risks to track workers, for example, by having track safety equipment which better protects people working in line blockages or increases the reliability of approaching train warnings. Additionally, they highlighted the importance of people and the need to engage and listen to frontline staff.
  • Safer-W Programme Manager Leslie Steen (Infrabel) presented “Digitalisation and railway safety - rethinking worksite protection under ERTMS”. He shared the fact that the fast-ongoing roll out of ETCS, higher capacity demand and the complexity of infrastructure are causing worksite protection challenges for Infrabel, in response to which, they are implementing practical and effective solutions to increase safety on their ETCS network. Paper safety procedures are being replaced by user-friendly digital alternatives, and from 2025 onwards they will be gradually implementing an efficient one uniform solution for securing railway works. Steen noted the similarities between the various railway infrastructure managers’ initiatives and called for more intensive collaboration between the countries as this would not only improve the efficiency of the technical solution development process, but also create faster and better solutions for the track workers.

Finally, a discussion was chaired by UIC Head of Operations and Safety, Frédéric Hénon, with the opportunity to share the expertise and experience of both the participants and presenters to bring about lasting changes. Some key points were raised, such as the importance of technology, the automation of certain tasks, work scheduled during daylight hours or even remotely, and the general improvement of the physical and mental health of workers, to help the rail industry attract and retain high-calibre staff. The debate highlighted the importance of specifying worker safety objectives and solutions as new signalling systems are developed and implemented.

All the presentations made during the webinar are now available for viewing on the event page.

Please also read the post on LinkedIn

The link to the webinar recording is available here:

For further information, please contact Virginie Papillault, Human & Organisational Factors and Safety Culture Manager at UIC:

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