May 2019 – Rail Construction
Rail engineering work is one of the most highly-regulated sectors of construction, and for good reason. Not only does it demand specialist technical knowledge, it also has some of the most demanding health & safety requirements in the industry.
You have to undergo special training and be fully qualified before you can set foot on a railway track. But still things can go wrong, as they did near Purley, in Surrey, last November when a rail worker was hit and killed by a passenger train.
Thankfully, actual fatalities are rare. But near-misses are not, and they’re becoming more frequent. So much so that earlier this month Simon French, chief inspector at the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, laid into Network Rail for its failure to keep track maintenance workers safe – and this despite the publication of three investigation reports and four safety digests in two years.
French’s frustration is understandable when you consider that his organisation has no powers to prosecute; that’s down to the industry regulator, the Office for Rail & Road which, so far, has only prosecuted in the event of an injury or fatality. Near-misses go unpunished.
As we report in our feature on p31 of this issue, the HSE never hesitates to prosecute for safety breaches, irrespective of whether or not they result in an injury. The ORR would do well to follow the HSE’s example.