Britain’s railways are among the safest in Europe, ranking second for passenger safety and sixth for workforce safety out of 25 EU member states.
Anna Walker, non-executive Chairman of the Office of Rail Regulation, recently acknowledged this safety record during November’s IOSH Railway Conference, but warned there is no room for complacency.
In his presentation to the last Safety Summit in May 2011, Paul Taylor, Director of Network Rail’s Safety Leadership and Culture Change Programme, also highlighted the dangers of complacency.
Paul explained that once rules, procedures, tools, equipment and PPE had been considered, the focus has to be the environment in which people work and improving workforce engagement.
He stated: “Workforce engagement requires trust and an improved safety culture at all levels, and this is being addressed by Network Rail’s Safety Leadership and Culture Change (SLCC) Programme. Part of this extends into the working environment, which requires improved project and equipment design.”
To bring about such design improvements, the SLCC programme now includes a “Safety by Design” initiative.
This reinforces the requirements of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, which have required designers to “avoid foreseeable risks to the health and safety of any person at work or any person carrying out construction work” since 1995.
The regulations require designers to eliminate risks if it is reasonably practicable to do so and, if not, to mitigate those risks. They also require the designer to provide information about risks that can’t be eliminated by design.
Safe design champions
Keith Miller has worked on railway civil engineering projects for 34 years, having previously been the senior project manager for the Forth Bridge repainting project.
Although head of construction for Network Rail’s Building and Civils projects, he is currently seconded to the SLCC Programme to manage Safety by Design.
Keith’s belief in the need for this initiative is clear as he has seen the results of designs which have not adequately considered or communicated workforce risk:
“One example of poor safety by design that springs to mind was a chamfer on a bridge beam which made it unstable when transported. This resulted in a serious injury whilst it was unloaded. More needs to be done to prevent such accidents and that’s why I’m glad to be leading this initiative.”
One of Keith’s allies is Lee Parlett, Network Rail’s Heath and Safety Manager for its Crossrail and Reading Programme.
Lee is also enthusiastic about the concept of building safety into designs. Indeed his belief in this concept is such that he recently completed a 53-page dissertation entitled “Consideration of construction safety during the design phase of railway infrastructure projects” as part of his MSc course on Health and Safety Management.
Lee’s dissertation makes interesting reading. Its literature review includes a 2004 HSE study which concluded that designers could have taken steps to prevent 43% of fatal construction accidents and quotes similar statistics from other literature.
As part of the Crossrail Programme, Lee is well placed to help implement this concept.
The design prize
If done at the conceptual project stage, workforce safety improvements can be introduced at minimal cost, as shown by a graph of change over a typical project lifecycle.
Such design safety improvements are also likely to offer construction and maintenance cost savings from, say, improved productivity and access, and can be illustrated by the following examples:
- Providing structures with scaffolding fixture points for future maintenance;
- Locating equipment cabinets greater than three metres from the line with no requirement to go “on or near the line”;
- Mitigating the risk of neck and shoulder injuries whilst using a heavy drill to drill large numbers of holes in a ceiling by the provision of an adjustable lever attached to scaffolding to lift the drill;
- Access route for heavy materials within a building identified at design stage to enable use of mechanised plant;
- Use of lightweight TroTred troughing (as described in the rail engineer issue 83, September 2011) to provide a combined cable route and safe cess.
Barriers to success
Designing for workforce safety is a legal requirement which offers potentially large safety and cost benefits at minimal expense.
However, this concept is often not applied. Examples include the installation of axle counters in the six foot rather than the cess, new S&C being installed without an access point, and lines converted to bi-directional working without additional track protection.
Nevertheless, as Keith says, “I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Network Rail’s designers. They face the challenging task of designing safe rail infrastructure in accordance with the numerous applicable standards.”
Perhaps this partly indicates the problem, as hazard identification at the design stage is unlikely to be effective if it is standard driven. Instead it requires an understanding of the construction and maintenance problems which may be unique to individual projects.
Hence the requirement, at an early stage in the project, to bring designers together with construction and maintenance personnel.
Design often has to be discipline specific, whilst risk mitigation generally requires a multi-functional approach.
For example, the track designers’ remit for replacement S&C may not include either permanent or temporary access.
Lack of awareness is another reason why construction safety is not adequately considered at the design stage. Lee’s dissertation illustrates this by a review of lessons learnt during the West Coast project.
Although the project teams had identified 1080 lessons learnt which could benefit other projects, no Safety by Design issues were identified, indicating a lack of awareness that inadequate design for safety could be a problem.
Accident reports almost invariably only consider immediate and underlying causes during the construction phase so, as a result, report recommendations are unlikely to address design activities that may have occurred a year previously.
So far as the Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Regulations are concerned, the role of the designer is not limited to technically qualified engineers.
The HSE’s Industry Guidance for Designers shows how roles which are not normally thought of as designers can take decisions that have an impact on the health and safety of others.
For example, clients might unduly limit available land, insist on a particular surface finish or limit maintenance access by specifying soft landscaping. As far as the CDM Regulations are concerned, these are design decisions. However, those who make such decisions are probably not aware that they are adopting the CDM Designer’s role.
Strategy for success
Network Rail’s strategy for Safety by Design is designed to overcome these issues, and Keith is confident that it will deliver the required design improvements:
“The strategy is a two-stage approach. The first stage is to build awareness and develop tools to deliver the CDM designer’s duties, while the second stage will make sure these tools are embedded into the Network Rail design process. This will also include a review of all applicable standards.”
The first stage builds on much that has already been done including CDM training, lessons learnt intranet pages, risk assessment workshops, improved information on drawings and pilot schemes such as undertaken on Crossrail.
The CDM awareness training given to all Network Rail’s project personnel includes a video illustrating how decisions in offices can affect site safety.
Keith is particularly pleased with the Lessons Learned page on Network Rail’s internal intranet system, Connect:
“It’s an effective way of sharing lessons learnt, as they used to get buried in documents which were not easily accessible. Another good example I’ve come across is a similar initiative piloted by the Thameslink project – warning triangles are provided on construction drawings to highlight residual safety risks that cannot be designed out.”
Work still in progress includes CDM training for particular roles and defining best practice Designer’s Risk Assessments which will form the basis of a risk awareness training programme.
The standard designs already published on Connect are being reviewed to eliminate, if possible, residual risks and to confirm that remaining risks are clearly identified by warning triangles on drawings.
Workshops with industry partners are to be held to enable CDM Co-ordinators to effectively participate in design reviews and for Contractor’s Responsible Engineers to consider design risk assessments.
A further workshop will specifically consider how infrastructure design can reduce maintenance difficulties. Network Rail is also sponsoring the development of products to improve safety and seeks ideas through its Innovation website (as described in the rail engineer issue 84, October 2011).
Crossrail also pioneers safe design
The Crossrail Programme is being delivered by various industry partners with Network Rail being responsible for the works on the existing rail network.
This includes around £1 billion of work between Paddington and Maidenhead, connections to the new tunnel portal at Paddington and a new flyover over the Great Western mainline to Heathrow.
The Crossrail Project is the central work, mainly in tunnels, which is delivered by Crossrail Limited with Bechtel as CDM Co-ordinator.
Crossrail’s emphasis on design safety is reflected in a Health and Safety award given to Capita Symonds in April 2010, the first given to a consultancy.
This was granted for commitment to health and safety issues in design, specifically for tunnel portals at North Woolwich and Plumstead which allowed for safe railway operation, including emergency escape.
Design safety is also stressed in Crossrail’s overall Health Safety and Environmental Standard which is supported by their guide “Health by Design” which includes toolkits to assist designers to identify and reduce construction hazards. This is available here.
Interestingly, this guide focuses on health risks and provides possible design solutions for particular hazards.
Although Crossrail’s guide is not mandated on Network Rail, Lee has used it as support material for “My Role with the Designer” workshops which have been held for all Crossrail and Reading programme staff with CDM responsibilities.
These workshops aim to raise the profile of construction worker safety as a design objective and to provide the tools to do this.
One such tool is CHAIR (Constructability Hazard Assessment Implication Review), a technique developed in Australia to reduce construction, maintenance, repair and demolition safety risks associated with design.
A CHAIR review was recently undertaken for an embankment which forms part of Crossrail’s new Heathrow flyover.
This took 2 hours, involved 15 people and identified 30 risk reduction measures to be incorporated into the design including integrated reinforcing wall edge protection, lifting lugs for pre-fabricated panels, emergency egress and water run off mitigation.
This reinforced Lee’s belief in the Safety by Design philosophy as it showed that, with relatively little effort, it had really made a difference.
A lesson from the past
In 1916, Richard Maunsell, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, gave his presidential address to the Institution of Locomotive Engineers on the subject of locomotive design and maintenance.
He concluded by saying that “The engineer instinctively looks for the prominence of details which he knows should be accessible and he rightly regards as a monstrosity a machine which is lacking in this respect.”
Although a long time ago, and referring to a different type of railway engineering, this statement applies equally to an axle counter unnecessarily installed in the six foot. It’s good to know Network Rail is taking action to avoid such monstrosities in future.
For all things safety – join us at this years Rail Safety Summit in Loughborough.
Network Rail’s assistance in the preparation of this article is gratefully acknowledged. Further information on a CDM Designer’s duties is available from the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/cdm/designers.htm
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