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Communication essential for worksite safety

Collision between an empty coal train and excavator

A collision between an empty coal train and excavator at Maitland, NSW shows how clear communication of track workers’ location is vital to ensuring safe work on rail lines. 

The accident occurred on 20 December 2011 and resulted in extensive damage to the excavator and some damage to the lead locomotive. Neither the crew nor the track workers were injured in the collision. 

Maintenance work on the track had been authorised and safety measures designed to exclude rail traffic from the worksite had been put in place; however, the network controller did not confirm the exact location of the worksite before authorising access to the track for maintenance purposes. There were also communication protocol omissions between the network control and the worksite protection officer and a lack of coordination between interfacing network control officers.  

As a result of the accident the track manager is reviewing safe working rules for Controlled Signal Block arrangements and will ensure that there is coordination between network controllers when a worksite affects more than one controller’s area of responsibility.    

Safe work on railway tracks is a focus for the ATSB’s SafetyWatch initiative that stresses the importance of organisation and effective communication between controllers, crews and track workers. 

Read the report RO-2011-018


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Last update 03 April 2013