Good work practices crucial to safe work on rail


The ATSB is urging rail workers to keep safe when working on track.

The ATSB's advice follows our investigations into accidents involving unsafe work practices, particularly surrounding communications and track occupancy.

In May 2010 a collision between an XPT passenger train and a track-mounted excavator near Newbridge, NSW resulted in the death of the excavator operator. In another incident near Jaurdi, WA in March 2011, a freight train collided with a track mounted excavator-the train driver sustained a minor injury and there was significant damage to the track.

In the Newbridge incident the workers were operating under Track Occupancy Authorities (TOA) and had been authorised to occupy and work on the tracks. Neither the Protection Officer (PO) nor the Network Control Officer (NCO) had positively identified the location and type of worksite. Their actions were influenced by a deficiency in the TOA form, in that no provision was provided to record this critical information. Both the PO and the NCO had wrongly assumed that the train had already passed beyond the limits of the worksite. The problem was compounded when the workers accessed the danger zone before the PO had put in place the normal site protection measures such as detonators and flags. 

As a result, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) reinforced the rules and procedures for the issuing of TOAs. The ARTC also implemented a revised TOA form that records critical information about the location and type of worksite.

The investigation into the collision near Jaurdi found that two track mounted excavators had been placed back on the track without permission of the Authorised Employee responsible for the coordination of track side safeworking activities at the site. Other findings were that the communication equipment available to the track crews was inadequate, the sharing of safeworking protection information at pre-work briefings had not occurred and the application of a WestNet Rule had been simplified.

Communication, information and safe work practices play a critical role in keeping our tracks safe.

Last update 04 January 2013