Network Rail reports improved track workers’ safety

British rail-track workers’ safety has improved, with no fatalities on the mainline network in the last year, the Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) annual health and safety report has found.

It said ‘red zone’ working, which compromises work done on live train lines, almost ended with a 98 per cent reduction.

In fact, improvements made by Network Rail led the ORR to conclude that the group had complied with two track-worker safety improvement notices issued in July 2019, following the deaths of two workers in Port Talbot.

The UK has one of the safest railways in Europe, the annual report added, while risk on the mainline railway was at an all-time low.

But the ORR flagged concerns about accidents and near-misses, and the need to strengthen safety management and oversight following the pandemic.

Risk management of earthworks and drainage also raised fears, with “significant variation in the approach to implementing the action plans within the regions”.

These plans were drawn up after the Carmont derailment in Aberdeenshire in 2020, when three people died after debris was washed on to the line following heavy rain.

ORR chief railways inspector Ian Prosser said: “We will continue to work closely with industry and government to provide valuable support and advice, and strive to see continuous improvements in health and safety management across the industry for the benefit of all.”

The ORR “found issues with the control of contractors” and revealed that it had served an improvement notice.

In one case cited, it investigated a complaint of a failure by a principal contractor to manage construction by a sub-contractor at Hartlebury station in Worcestershire, where the movement of construction vehicles was introducing a risk to workers and the public.

It also served an improvement notice on the principal contractor, engineering services firm Dyer & Butler, in February, which it complied with in less than a month.

Regulatory actions included a £6.5m fine for WH Malcolm, following the death of a child, who gained access to the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, which the firm manages. The company is part of the same group as Malcolm Construction.

Amey Rail was ordered to pay £600,000 and costs after a road-rail excavator vehicle overturned during an unsafe lift outside Market Harborough station.

Civil engineering contractor QTS Group was fined £15,000 when a contract rope access technician broke his arm when it became entangled in a drilling rig provided by the firm.

In May, Network Rail was fined £1.4m for safety failings that led to a worker suffering “catastrophic and life-changing injuries”.

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