Companies should be taking additional measures to make sure employees stay safe when working on level crossings, rail safety experts are warning.
According to the Institution of Occupational Safety (IOSH), workers are at a higher risk of being injured when having to manually open and close lift barriers and gates to get across rail tracks.
During a rail safety event hosted by the IOSH, the risks of user-worked crossings (UWCs) were highlighted and employers across all industries were urged to take extra steps to protect the safety of their workers.
Two people a year are killed and over 50% of all near-misses between trains and vehicles occur at UWCs, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said.
The risks UWCs pose to workers are not widely known, according to Adam Meredith, a senior engineer and HM Inspector of Railways at the ORR.
Appropriate risk assessments should be undertaken before employees are permitted to access UWCs, Mr Meredith said.
“To make a one-way crossing with a vehicle or animals, the person will have to cross the track more than once in order to open and close the gates. With each crossing a train is getting closer.
“There is a massive amount of residual risk here to you and the train. If I was crossing this regularly I would ask what are the characteristics of this crossing, and what does the signaller know about it?
Mr Meredith, who is a member of the IOSH, flagged the importance of an effective safety management system – one that identifies who is at risk, what controls exist and what can be done to maintain the safety of workers.
UWCs often “excluded from risk assessments”
Of the 6,000 level-crossings on Britain’s rail network, around a third are classed as UWCs.
Though most of the recorded incidents involve rail and agriculture workers, there are risks to employees from any industry that are required to operate the crossings.
Alan Plom, vice-chair of the IOSH Rural Industries Group, said: “One of our challenges is getting other sectors to realise that safety at UWCs is of relevance to them.
“It could be refuse workers collecting waste, engineers inspecting farm machinery or anyone making deliveries to these premises.
“Often UWCs are not in companies’ risk assessments, and many wouldn’t think to include it.”
Date Published: September 17, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown