Mode Rail
Reference No. RR201300020
Date reported 20 November 2013
Concern title Safety of rail workers in en electrified environment
Concern summary

The concern related to the safety of road / rail workers working in en electrified environment with no isolation of the power.

Industry / Operation affected Rail: Infrastructure
Concern subject type Rail: Track infrastructure

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern regarding the safety of road / rail workers working in en electrified environment with no isolation of the power.

The reporter advised that the electrical safety instructions are being circumvented by using emergency procedures which are not detailed in the instructions. Road / rail crews have accessed electrified environments without the required precautions being taken - the area was not isolated, no permit was issued and earths were not applied.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

We have only had one electrical near miss incident reported to us. Should your reporter be aware of any other incidents, it would appear that they have not been reported which is a breach by that person of their reporting requirements either in our safety management system if an employee or the contractual arrangements if a contractor.

For the electrical near miss incident that we are aware of, we have (at the request of the Electrical Engineering Manager) engaged on organisation to conduct an independent investigation for our organisation. This contractor was in [location] to conduct interviews with relevant staff and contractors. As part of the terms of reference for the investigation he is required to provide us with an interim report next week.

I am also informed via one of our Project Team Safety Advisors that the lead contractor is also undertaking an investigation that is being conducted independently of our investigation.

We are happy to provide further information as it becomes known during the investigation, and we are committed to ensuring that any systemic issues that are identified are addressed to prevent reoccurrence.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

The ONRSR has undertaken a compliance inspection and has found instances where procedures for electrical safety have not been followed correctly or fully.

The ONRSR found that electrical permits have been issued in advance by email and before the overhead lines were de-energised. It was also established that electrical permits have been issued without a suitably qualified person first undertaking a check of the work site and plant equipment to be used, which is in contradiction to the authorised safety instructions.

The operator requires requests for accessing the network to be made several days in advance. The compliance inspection found that this timeframe is usually not adhered to.

This can be considered a contributing factor to the occurrences described above.

The operator has also investigated a near miss incident in which a worker has been in the vicinity of the energised overhead wires and has made similar findings to that of the ONRSR compliance inspection.

The operator has taken proactive action and an instruction has been issued to:

  • Adhere to the access request timeframe,
  • To only allow electrical permits to be issued in person on site,
  • To only issue electrical permits which are personally authorised by a senior manager with an electrical engineering background.

Those corrective actions appear to mitigate the risks of electrical permits being issued in advance and without checking by the suitably qualified person.

The ONRSR plans to undertake a follow up compliance inspection to ensure the above process is implemented.

Last update 24 March 2014