Health and Safety Executive statistics for 2010/11 reveal that, across all industries, 171 people were killed at work in the UK that year and over 115,000 injuries were reported under RIDDOR. It is difficult to obtain a precise figure of the cost of a fatality, but in addition to the unquantifiably enormous cost of human grief and suffering, when considering the cost of legal proceedings, medical and emergency services charges, associated damage to equipment, loss of production and insurance costs, then a seven-figure sum is not unreasonable. So clearly it is vital in both human and financial contexts that everything possible must be done to reduce these risks, especially when severe hazards such as moving trains and high voltage equipment are present in the workplace.
Train movements within a depot are an obvious occupational hazard in the rail industry. Research carried out by the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) in the 2005 Halcrow Report looked into the causes of collisions and accidents relating to train movements in maintenance depots, reviewing 880 incidents taken from information gathered in relation to 28 UK depots during a seven-year period.The need for infrastructure improvements
The report looked at various potential factors, but interestingly found age of depot to be the most statistically significant contributory factor. The RSSB report shows that depots built within the last 20 years are found to have reported significantly fewer accidents than their older counterparts.
Over the past two decades, depot infrastructure has undergone changes which have clearly made a positive impact on safety. Better lighting arrangements, communication systems, access points, switches/crossings, signal sighting, fouling points and SPAD traps all contribute to increased safety.
Modern technology is an important part of the answer for Britain’s depots. Innovative systems such as Zonegreen’s SMART Depot Personnel Protection System (DPPS™) help control vehicle movements and protect individuals working within the depot, in turn ensuring that essential vehicle movements and maintenance are able to be carried out efficiently without endangering individuals or risking damage to maintenance facilities or rolling stock. Using intelligent control and communication technology, this system is a proven safe and efficient way of controlling depot train movements.Technology has an important role to play
It is often the case that accidents are caused by human actions, and unfortunately given the circumstances and surroundings, a mistake in a depot is more likely to have a serious impact than it would in a different environment.
The RSSB’s research identified the most common human factors for accidents to be: fatigue caused by night work; poor communication; poor user interface design; time pressures leading to risk taking; poor legibility of information displays; an over-familiarity with team members leading to incorrect assumptions; and a poor appreciation of risk due to lack of training.
Of course, nothing can completely eradicate the potential of an accident being caused by a human action; but it is possible to implement new technologies, putting in place as many complementary measures as possible to ensure that such incidents are kept to a minimum.
Technologies such as Zonegreen’s DPPS™ offer solutions that provide added safety controls and communications help ensure that any human errors do not end in disaster. In the case of DPPS™, electronic personnel data keys identify when an individual is working in a ‘safe zone’ and allow the intelligent system to protect them from unexpected train movements; the system furthermore provides warnings when train movements are imminent. Modern, advanced solutions have a big role to play in promoting safe working practices – for the benefit of both staff and the depot operating companies they work for.Points Convertor
Zonegreen’s SMART Depot Personnel Protection System (DPPSTM) isn’t the Sheffield-based company’s only contribution to improving safety in rail maintenance depots. It has also recently launched its Points Convertor – a system that allows the automation and remote operation of manually-operated switches and crossings.
By removing the physical strains involved in operating points, the device greatly reduces the risks of accidents and musculoskeletal disorders (particularly in relation to the back and neck) associated with points operation. Its optional remote controller also allows the operator to control the machine at a distance – thereby minimising slips, trips and falls, in addition to mitigating the obvious hazards arising where an operator would otherwise have to be in the vicinity of moving vehicles.
The ease of use of the Points Convertor also makes actual points operation a less time-consuming, as well as less arduous, task and the system’s capacity for remote operation aids efficiency by removing the need for busy staff to walk what can be quite substantial distances.
The Points Convertor can be installed in single units or in multiples – in the latter case in a network, allowing route-setting instructions to be given through a single, simple procedure which then can automatically operate whichever sets of points are required. The system, already installed at a number of locations across the UK, also includes an event logging system to keep a record of the system’s operation.
Furthermore, the Zonegreen Points Convertor is a low-cost solution that is straightforward to install, as it does not require any civil works or changes in operating procedures for its installation.
Alex Rocataliata, who leads Zonegreen’s sales and marketing function, said: “We are very pleased to add the Points Convertor to our product range – the system brings the same core attributes of safety, efficiency and performance that we are already proud to provide through our internationally renowned DPPSTM.”
The Zonegreen Points Convertor provides a cost-effective method of simultaneously improving safety and efficiency for the benefit of both staff and their employers, making it a great example of how modern technology can help improve the UK’s rail maintenance facilities.
For more information about the SMART Depot Personnel Protection System (DPPSTM), the Points Convertor and the company itself, please contact:
Tel: 0114 2300822