Risks of the modern railroad for rail workers
Posted on 8th April 2019 by Phil Ainley MCIM CMktr
Working on the railways has captured the hearts of romantics for decades. In the age of steam, youngsters dreamt of becoming train drivers and the exhilaration and excitement that came with these majestic machines.
Little has changed over the years, yet the romanticism that went hand-in-hand with the railways has been replaced by pragmatism, legislation and health and safety directives which have been fuelled by the risks of the modern railroad for rail workers.
Health and safety risks of working on the railways
Despite significant improvements in rail safety in recent years, the railways have always been viewed as a relatively high-risk industry for rail staff and insurers alike.
Rail workers are vulnerable due to their exposure to high voltage electricity, moving plant vehicles, poor environmental conditions (including adverse weather conditions and poorly maintained and disorganised office space), unsociable working hours, assault from passengers and of course to moving trains!
What about the professional risks to rail workers?
Many online articles, whitepapers and statistics concentrate on the physical health and safety risks and incidents. The professional risks to rail workers and rail sub-contractors are just as important and they can be just as damaging.
Unsociable hours can lead to fatigue and ultimately cause human error in the work being undertaken. Railway staff perform a broad spectrum of tasks from designs and planning to geotechnical surveying, and from network control to civil engineering. Any errors or omissions that occur in performing these tasks can lead to catastrophic consequences.
In 2018, there were 2 recorded workforce fatalities (1 on the mainline and 1 on trams, metros and non-Network Rail), which is a low figure in comparison to other hazardous industries. However, there were a further 6661 recorded injuries on the mainline (164 of which were major injuries) and 215 workforce injuries on trams, metros and non-Network Rail.
Human error can elevate the risks to other rail workers, passengers, rail operators and sub-contractors in terms of the risk of potential financial loss.
Errors in designs and planning or installations and maintenance can occur at any time and can be expensive for rail operators to correct.
These errors can also be costly to individual rail contractors and rail sub-contractors that have to return to the work to rectify the problems.
A good point to remember is that all of these professional risks can be mitigated with comprehensive business insurance that is tailored to the risks specific to the rail industry.
Serious issues that are rarely mentioned
Sadly, the nation’s railways are also used by those wishing to end their own lives. Not only does this cause distress to their families, but it can also cause significant disruption and psychological trauma for railway staff, passengers and members of the emergency services.
Staff training and other control measures can help, but who provides the specialist support and counselling for the staff involved and who pays the bill for that care and how?
Another important issue is the use of our nation’s railroads for the transportation of hazardous materials. Rail transportation is a relatively cheap, safe, efficient and quick way of transporting goods.
Goods such as petrol, chemicals, liquefied gases and nuclear waste are often carried by our railroads and require a range of stringent measures to control the high levels of risk involved to all parties concerned.
Railway contractor insurance enables rail workers to thrive
Caunce O’Hara provide ‘multiple lines’ of industry specific cover to rail contractors, including: professional indemnity insurance, public and employers’ liability cover, tax enquiry and legal expenses insurance and personal accident and sickness cover.
For further information about Railway Contractor Insurance contact 0333 321 1403 or get a free online quote today.
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