A new report on the health and safety performance of railways in the UK has revealed that although no passengers died while using trains in the last 12 months, one child died after an accident in a freight depot and there were two worker fatalities (one of which was because of natural causes).
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) publication shows that although our railways are indeed safe, the industry now needs to prioritise supporting its staff members in order to make sure that passengers travel safely in the future.
The industry is also making good strides with regards to the changes recommended by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch after the Croydon tram derailment back in 2016. The formation of a Safety Standards Board is now being prioritised in order to help assist this important work.
Significant progress has also been made in ensuring that health and safety considerations are now embedded in the design stage of projects, particularly for Merseyrail’s upgrades to trains and stations, and for managing change in work undertaken by London Underground and Transport for London.
Ian Prosser, chief inspector of railways, said: “It is a tribute to the hard work, expertise and professionalism of everyone connected to the railways that our network remains one of the safest in the world. However, the tragedy at Croydon remains fresh in all of our memories and that, alongside the pace of change on the railway, places staff and infrastructure under increasing pressure.
“The ORR will work with the industry to protect the health and well-being of staff, meet the many challenges that the industry faces and ensure that passengers continue to travel in safety.”
The report is now calling on the sector to prioritise three main areas – supporting staff in times of increasing pressure (particularly with regards to mental health and fatigue), risk-controlling challenges associated with new equipment and increases in train frequencies, and paying attention to how people interact with new technological developments that are being used to improve safety and performance.
The ORR ensures safer railways by investigating accidents, incidents and complaints, proactively helping rail firms identify and manage health and safety risks, and helping develop new laws and review current ones to reduce red tape.
Inspection focus is on key safety themes such as level crossings, passenger safety, rail workers and infrastructure. The organisation’s aim is to ensure firm and fair enforcement of health and safety laws, with inspectors taking action by providing verbal and written advice to improve practices and issuing clear improvement notices with deadlines for change. Safety certificates can also be revoked and prohibition notices issued to stop work immediately until safety concerns are sorted out.
In order to move health and safety forward, the ORR is taking a proactive approach to managing health and safety, using opportunities at the design stage to lower risks and treat worker health on a par with safety.
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