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An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report, released today, has found that work procedures in the Regency Park rail yard allowed a shunter to ride on the end-steps of a wagon while being shunted and did not require that the driver confirm that the shunter was safe and/or in a safe position before starting a shunt movement.

The dangers involved in railway shunting accidents were tragically illustrated when a railway employee was severely injured and disabled after a string of wagons ran over him. The ATSB report of the accident on 2 February 2005, cites poor work practices and weak communications protocols between the driver and the shunter that resulted in permanent and severe injuries to the shunter.

The ATSB report states that the accident occurred whilst the locomotive was pushing nine wagons. Near the conclusion of the movement, the driver of the locomotive radioed the shunter to establish his whereabouts. When the shunter failed to reply, the driver stopped the train and left the cab to look for the shunter. As the driver left the cab he saw the shunter lying face down between the tracks.

The ATSB concluded that given the location in which the shunter was found, the design of the wagon and related site evidence, that either:

  • the shunter fell from the end step of the leading wagon; or
  • the shunter was run over by the wagon just before, or as, he attempted to board the wagon's end step.

While the report concludes that safety actions implemented immediately following the accident are likely to have prevented a similar accident, the investigation identified further opportunities to improve railway operational safety and made eight safety recommendations.

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Last update 01 April 2011