01 Nov 2018

Safety gets drilled in

Robert Lambert Rail Technologies Manager

I’m lucky enough that from time to time I get to escape the confines of the office and go out on track to look at the performance of rails. While this is very exciting as you can always learn something new, it’s obviously a very hazardous environment to be working in. This is made even worse when, as soon as you spot something of interest, you lose all awareness of your surroundings. You say you won’t get affected, but it happens to everyone. More than once I’ve been looking closely at the surface of a rail, then looked up to see a train has seemingly been transported silently to now be much closer.

This kind of hazard is obviously critical to address in a track environment and sometimes is done by providing physical barriers to any moving vehicles to keep you segregated, or other times is addressed through someone shouting “get back!” at you in a loud voice. However, some of the safety techniques we practice are a bit more subtle.

When doing your training to go onto the UK mainline network, the majority of the course is repeat, repeat, repeat. You get told about safe distances, names of things and safe system of work over and over. This method ensures that despite all the weird terminology (“cess” anybody?) you get indoctrinated about where to stand and what to do, making you a predictable and safe part of the team.

The other key part of making it safe to work on the railways is the split of safety from the job. When doing our site visits, we’re performing a task and, as we have seen, this can very easily make us ignorant of our surroundings. By having some members of the inspection team dedicated to watching out for hazards, and not performing any other task, it means that each member of the team is clear what they are responsible for. All this means that whenever I go on track, despite the serious hazards, the risk is reduced and I always feel very safe.

So there you go – you now know how safety gets drilled in. If you’re curious about the types of things we do on track when we’re monitoring condition and behaviour, or you require any of our rail technical services, why not drop an email to rail@britishsteel.co.uk?

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