Network Rail track worker hit by train

Network Rail has been fined £800,000 after a track worker was hit by a train travelling between 130 and 145 km/h on the main line between London and Brighton. He survived but sustained multiple life-changing injuries.

Allen Evans was carrying out maintenance work on the Quarry Line, north of the Redhill Tunnel on tracks running between Gatwick Airport and East Croydon when the incident occurred.  Guildford Crown Court heard that Network Rail failed to adequately plan and manage the task.

Mr Evans was managing a team of 12 men that had been deployed to fix track weakened by metal fatigue, which they were doing while the line remained operational.

This section of the rail network is one of the busiest in the UK; 13 trains an hour passed through the work site in each direction during the day. Three lookouts warned the track workers of approaching trains, after which they had 35 seconds to retreat to a position of safety (POS).

The POS was between 1.25 m and 1.5 m from the nearest running rail, complying with the 1.25 m minimum requirement. However, beyond the POS was a steep embankment with a 45° gradient. It did not provide the work group with a firm foothold and they had to either sit down, feet facing down the embankment, or stand with one leg down the embankment, leaning away from the passing trains.

The maintenance work was scheduled to take place on 24 June 2014, between 9 am and 1 pm. Towards the end of the job, the group was warned of a train approaching on the up line and moved to the POS. Evans was still walking along the track with his back to the oncoming train when he was hit and thrown down the embankment.

He was evacuated from the site by air ambulance and taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, with multiple life-changing injuries, in particular to his right arm and left knee. He has undergone 22 operations since the accident and may still have to have his right arm amputated.

The prosecution was brought by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), whose investigation found that the maintenance works could have been carried out at night when no trains were running. It said open line working should only occur as a last resort and that

“green zone working arrangements were available that week during the night”. It said that as a result of Network Rail’s failures, “workers were unnecessarily exposed to risks to their safety”.

The regulator added that, though the POS was “just acceptable”, the narrow, steep embankment “materially compromised” the track workers’ ability to use it when trains approached. Some of the work group said they felt uncomfortably close to the trains and found the bank steep.

The safe system of work did not acknowledge the narrowness of the POS or the steep gradient of the embankment; the only additional site-specific hazards it identified were slips, trips and falls.

The investigation also found that the lookout was standing too close to the work group to give a sufficient warning time for approaching trains. Instead of the required 35 seconds, it was only 18 seconds. After the accident, Network Rail implemented electronic radio signal warning equipment to increase warning times.

In a statement the company said:

“The accident was directly caused by Mr Evans not remaining in a position of safety and walking into the path of an approaching train without keeping a look out despite having been warned of the approaching train.

Whilst this was the direct cause [of] the accident, Network Rail acknowledges that there were shortcomings in the planning of the work and the operation of a safe system of work which were not conducted in accordance with required procedures and relevant standards. “

It pleaded guilty to breaching ss 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, since, though some of the workers were Network Rail staff, others were employed by civil engineer Keltbray or were self-employed. Judge Stephen Climie fined the company £400,000 for each offence on 9 January.

ORR principal inspector Tom Wake said: “After the incident, Network Rail undertook a review of worker safety on the London to Brighton line, reducing track maintenance with trains running, introducing better warning systems and providing additional training for staff.”

Workers not protected at National Airline

British Airways PLC has been prosecuted for not protecting their workers’ from hand arm vibrations.

The condition can affect sleep when it occurs at night and cause difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.

Paisley Sheriff Court heard how employees working within the composite workshop at the Glasgow base, during the course of their work, used hand held power tools to carry out repairs on various components.  It was heard that they were exposed to the risk of Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs), a condition that can cause symptoms such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the affected persons hands.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) highlighted the company’s failure to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to control the effect of exposure by workers to the vibrations from hand held tools. Potentially this exposed the work force to the risk of injury whilst working within the workshops.

British Airways PLC, Waterside, Harmondsworth, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (2005) and was fined £6,500.

Staffordshire Company fined over safety failings

A Logistics company based in Staffordshire has been fined after two employees were injured on the 6th and 7th of October 2016.

Oxford Crown Court heard how a 39 year old male employee sustained crush injuries to his left foot when he was hit by a forklift truck (FLT) at the Oxford Mini plant on 6 October 2014. The court also heard that the following day a 55 year old Operations Manager sustained severe injuries including internal bleeding, a fractured pelvis and punctured lungs after a large metal box became unstable and fell from the forks of a truck striking and pinning him underneath, despite walking along a marked pedestrian walkway at the time.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that FLT operators and their supervisors were not properly trained and the risk assessments in place were poor. The investigation also found that there was inadequate segregation of pedestrians and vehicles.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Kelly Nichols said:

“It is vital that drivers are competent and have received appropriate information, instruction and training. Sites should be well-designed and maintained with suitable segregation of vehicles and people in order to minimise the risk of workplace transport accidents.

The risks from workplace transport in warehouses and the required control measures to manage those risks are well known and publicised in HSE publications. It is really disappointing to find Rudolph & Hellmann Automotive Limited (RHA) failing to manage and control the risks associated with the lifting and movement of vehicles and goods in a busy workplace.

Sadly, in this case, the prosecution shows that RHA’s management of FLT driving operations and risk control measures failed which exposed employees to danger from falling loads and from being struck by a vehicle. These serious injuries were preventable.”

Rudolph & Hellmann Automotive Limited, of Sandford Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £265,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £14,943.30.

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£10m paid out for school asbestos claims

A BBC Article discusses how Councils in England have paid out at least £10m in compensation to people who developed illnesses because of asbestos in school buildings.

In the past decade, figures obtained by BBC News show that 32 councils have settled claims from former teachers, school staff or pupils.

The National Union of Teachers says up to 300 adults die each year because of exposure to asbestos while at school.

The full article can be read on the BBC website.

Council not protecting workers health

Thanet District Council has been fined £250,000 after a worker was left with permanent injuries after being diagnosed with hard arm vibration (HAV).

Canterbury Crown Court heard how a worker from Thanet District Council was diagnosed with suffering from HAV after visiting his GP.

Symptoms of the condition can include tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the hands. This affects sleep when it occurs at night and sufferers have difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the worker would typically spend up to 6 hours a day using a range of powered equipment including mowers and hedge cutters, depending upon the season. He was not under any health surveillance or told how he should report his symptoms. The investigation also found that the council had not taken steps to eliminate or control the exposure of their workers to HAVs. They failed to educate their workers on the risk and train them on how to control their exposure to the vibrations caused by the power tools.

At the time of the investigation the council were issued with an improvement notice, as soon as they started to rectify the problem and implement the appropriate health surveillance a further 15 cases of ill-health relating to vibration exposure were identified and reported to HSE.

Thanet District Council pleaded guilty of breaching Regulations 6(2) and 7(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and was fined a total of £250,000 and was ordered to pay £18,325.84 in costs.

HSE Principal Inspector Mike Walters, said:

“Hand Arm Vibration is a serious disease that impacts on people’s lives and impairs their ability to work. It is entirely preventable but once the damage is done it is permanent. Any business, council or employers can learn from this case. If you have workers who use heavy machinery you need to ensure you properly manage the risks from HAVs, control or eliminate the exposure and train them so they can identify the symptoms.”