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Rail leaders urged to prioritise safety

25 October 2019

A RAILWAY health and safety expert calls on industry leaders to ensure managing risks to workers and passengers are a priority as new figures reveal the number of fatalities and injuries last year.

Published by the Office of Rail and Road, the figures 17 passengers were killed and 377 suffered ‘major injuries’ in 2018-19, up from nine and 354 in the previous year and the highest numbers for a decade.

Meanwhile, two rail workers lost their lives and 6,247 were injured in accidents, 158 of them classed as ‘major injuries’. And there were 329 fatalities involving members of the public – those classed as neither passengers or workers – down from 336.

David Porter, chair of IOSH's Railway Group, said while much work has been done to prevent accidents, there has been added pressure caused by a growth in passenger numbers, increased network usage and the need to make efficiencies, changes and improve train performance.

He said, “The same approaches and techniques which have secured success in the past may not be sufficient to sustain improvements when there is less tolerance in the system. There are no easy answers and simple exhortations to do better miss the point. It will need careful analysis, thought and skilled leadership and management to ensure health and safety is appropriately prioritised and risks are managed consistently and effectively.

“In our view, the capabilities and competence of industry leaders to effectively govern and manage health and safety risks is key. As scrutiny of financial performance increases strong leadership on health and safety is necessary to ensure that there is appropriate attention on the risks to people, as well as the risks to the business.”

Mr Porter added, “Of course, the statistics cannot convey the suffering and loss to family, friends and colleagues from the death of a loved one; or the ongoing pain and suffering to those injured. And these figures don’t take account of how many workers have become ill as a result of work activities. And they do not convey the significant underlying potential for serious injury.”