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Network Rail Tightens the Reins on Health and Safety

The issues of health and safety in terms of things like railway construction seldom fall on something as simple as clearer edge protection or new fall arrest equipment. According to an article published by therailwayengineer.com, National Rail believe all accidents are preventable because within the network of the company and its partners there will always be an expert in each of the risky areas.

For example, our fall arrest experts don’t understand the intricate risks of railway engineering, but we do have an exceptionally well-developed sense of risk assessment in regard to fall arrest safety in various challenging environments. Simply put; there is an expert in everything, and when you have access to such experts, accidents should be completely avoidable.

Learning from Past Mistakes

According to the article, the words of the past are as applicable today as ever. In fact, perhaps those words need to be remembered and reiterated to promote the issue of safety in construction.

The words of Richard Maunsell, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the South East and Chatham Railway, certainly rang true in 1916: “The engineer instinctively looks for the prominence of details which he knows should be accessible and he rightly regards as a monstrosity a machine which is lacking in this respect.”

And moving on to 2012, Simon Kirby delivered a speech including the mirrored line: “Getting contractors’ early input to design has to be the right thing from a safety point of view.”

The message is clear – learn from previous risks and accidents, listen to contractors and experts more closely and include their information far earlier in the concept and design stage of rail construction and building works.

Health and Safety Initiatives

The Safety Leadership and Culture Change (SL&CC) program, “Safe by Design”, has been developed by National Rail to promote risk awareness and self-directed involvement in reducing risks and communicating expert information across the spectrum, e.g. encouraging more proactive involvement by swapping information and keeping the lines of communication firmly open.

It’s a real step in the right direction for people wanting to promote a cultural ideal that we’re all responsible for keeping each other safe. Rather than shifting the blame for fear of litigation or damning, the scheme seems to be urging a more community-driven approach to common sense and watchfulness in the working environment, from conceptual development to the finished article.

Key Issues

According to National Rail, key areas needing more consideration include risk assessment at the design stage (i.e. bringing in someone like our height safety experts to assess buildability in relation to working at height safety), identifying key roles in terms of safety early on in the design stage, studying past accidents related to similar builds and considering employee training much earlier in the building process.

Another issue has to be cost. The aim of the SL&CC’s “Safe by Design” initiative is to reduce the costs of Health and Safety measures by considering them in the concept and design stage.

5th July 2012 3:28 pm

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