Workplace Report September 2019

Health & safety - HSE Monitor

Overhaul rail safety regime

Rail safety standards, regulation and enforcement must be reformed as soon as possible so they are “genuinely independent and separated from economic regulations and the interests of private rail companies”, delegates at the annual TUC Congress agreed. 

Congress backed a rail union RMT motion on the safety of rail workers which said the rail safety regulator Office of Road and Rail (ORR) had failed to take effective action against Network Rail following the death of two track workers. The RMT members were hit by a train at Margam, South Wales in July 2019 despite previous warnings from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) that there had been “too many near misses in which track workers have had to jump for their lives”. 

The motion outlined concern that the ORR is also the railway economic regulator seeking to reduce Network Rail costs. 

It also pointed out that the Railway Safety Standards Board (RSSB), which is responsible for coordinating the industry response to assaults on staff, is funded by the railway companies. There has been a 27% increase in assaults against rail workers in the last year, but RSSB has done little to address the risk, it added.

Congress also noted that both the ORR and RSSB have “sided with, and coordinated responses with” the government and train companies to attack the RMT’s safety concerns over driver-only operation (DOO) during the current disputes over maintaining the guard on trains.